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Illinois' Safe Haven Laws and Child Abandonment

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child neglect, Illinois family attorney, Illinois adoption lawyer, Safe Haven laws often go unnoticed. However, every now and then in the news a case pops up about a newborn baby abandoned by a parent, and subsequently discovered by a citizen. Recently, a 17-year-old mother from Jacksonville, Illinois was arrested for abandoning her newborn infant in a trash bin. Safe haven laws were created to provide a safe alternative to child abandonment that does not make a criminal act to abandon a child and allows for the baby to be legally adopted.

Under Illinois safe haven law, the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act, a parent can anonymously and safely turn over their unwanted newborn baby to the police, medical professionals, firefighters and others, without any questions being asked. Since the creation of the law in 2001, the law has been used 98 times, but 72 illegal newborn abandonments have occurred in the state since the Illinois' safe haven law was implemented. In these cases, 35 of the children survived, but sadly 37 of these illegally abandoned children died before and after discovery.

Illinois' Safe Haven Law

Illinois' safe haven law only applies to abandoned “newborns”; those babies that are 30 days old or younger. A parent may legally “relinquish” the infant anonymously by leaving the child at federal government designated safe haven, such as emergency medical facilities, police stations, hospitals or staffed fire stations. Once the child is safely relinquished, the party to whom the infant was relinquished must have the infant examined for any abuse, which, if discovered, must be reported to law enforcement officials.

The examining body must also file a relinquishment report with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services State Central Registry within 12 hours of receipt of the infant. The relinquishing parent must be provided with an information package that provides a written notice about the legal process for terminating parental rights, a list of counselors and information about Illinois' Adoption Registry and Medical Information Exchange. The relinquishing parent must also be informed that they can safely and anonymously submit the adoption release and termination of parental rights forms to the DCFS.

The hospital or emergency room that examines the child will have temporary protective custody over the newborn. At this point, no attempt can be made to contact the infant's birth parent(s) unless abuse was discovered during the examination. Within 24 hours of the relinquishment report being filed, the DCFS must alert law enforcement officials about the infant's lawful abandonment in order to ensure that the infant is not a missing newborn.

The DCFs will also communicate with a licensed adoption agency, which can ultimately take physical custody of the child through the use of a legal custody order.Within three days after assuming custody of the newborn, the adoption agency must file a petition with the circuit court of their district. This report must state that the infant was legally relinquished and that the agency's intention is to place the infant in an adoptive home. The adopting agency will also file motions for an appointment of a legal guardian for the infant and also for the termination of the abandoning parent's parental rights.

Illegal child abandonments are criminal acts taken very serious by the state of Illinois. If you have any questions about child abandonments or adoptions, or any other questions regarding family law, contact the Will County family law attorneys at the Law Offices of Cosmo Tedone and Barbara Morton, P.C. in Joliet and Plainfield, Illinois.
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