Newborn Surrenders Under NJ’s Safe Haven Law Climb
Since the start of the year, four newborn babies have been surrendered at Safe Haven sites in New Jersey. That’s equal to the total number of newborns surrendered in 2022.
Since 2011, on average, there have been two to four newborn babies dropped off at official Safe Haven locations in New Jersey.
The law protects unwanted newborns
New Jersey’s Safe Haven Infant Protection Act took effect nearly twenty-three years ago in August 2000. Under the law, infants up to 30 days old and free of abuse or neglect can be anonymously surrendered at Safe Haven sites. Those sites include hospital emergency rooms, police and fire stations, and ambulance or rescue squads staffed 24 hours a day.
Since the law was enacted there have been a total of 86 newborns surrendered.
After being cleared by a medical professional, infants who have been surrendered are placed into an adoptive home through the Department of Children and Families (DCF) Division of Child Protection and Permanency.
Why the uptick?
While no one is sure why more babies have been surrendered in the first part of this year than is usually the case, DCF Commissioner Christine Norbut Beyer pointed out that awareness of the program has grown.
“Public awareness of Safe Haven as an option has increased over the past few years, due, we believe, in large part to our department’s social and digital media campaigns.”
That increased awareness is a good thing, according to Norbut Beyer.
“Awareness reduces fear, which reduces harm. Parents who are not ready or able to take on the responsibility of parenting can be assured that they can safely, legally, and anonymously surrender their infant at any staffed Safe Haven site.”
To publicize the law, New Jersey has had an ongoing statewide Safe Haven awareness campaign for more than two decades. Additionally New Jersey high schools teach students about the law in health and physical education classes.
It can be a scary time for women and girls
According to Laura Jamet, assistant commissioner of the Division of Child Protection and Permanency, the months and days leading up to childbirth can be uncertain and scary, especially for girls and women who may be feeling alone, unready and not sure where to turn for support.
“The decision to surrender a newborn is such a deeply personal and often difficult decision to make, no matter a pregnant person's age. But we want all pregnant people to know that they are not alone and have a place to turn to. The New Jersey Safe Haven Law is here for them, no questions asked,” Jamet said.
Due to confidentiality statutes and the promise of anonymity for the parents, the state will not share publicly the genders of the infants or the exact dates and locations of the surrenders.
You can get more information about the Safe Haven program here or call the Safe Haven Hotline at 1-877-839-2339.