Earlier this week, concerned residents in Elmira, N.Y. heard what they thought was a cat crying. When they approached the source of the sound, however, they instead found an 8-month-old girl, whose feet were sticking out of the white garbage bag she had been stuffed in 72 hours prior.
The baby was dehydrated, filthy and covered in waste, but she was alive. The neighbors who found her immediately called the police and rushed the girl inside to clean her and keep her safe while they waited for authorities to arrive.
The infant was transported to a hospital to be evaluated and treated. Fortunately, she is in stable condition and is expected to make a full recovery. But her mother, 17-year-old Harriette M. Hoyt of Sayre, Pa., now faces charges of second-degree attempted murder.
“I Don’t Want My Baby”
Stories like these are all too common — and often have tragic endings. Overwhelmed, exhausted and desperate, some new mothers find themselves thinking, “I don’t want this baby.” Unsure of where to turn, and likely ashamed of having these thoughts, young mothers like Harriette may take drastic measures: abandoning their infants in unsafe conditions.
There are many reasons why a new mother might feel trapped in her situation. These are just a few:
- She is a teenage mother who is overwhelmed by her circumstances and afraid for her parents or others to find out
- She is facing personal struggles like addiction, homelessness or other instability and feels she cannot care for a baby
- She is facing postpartum depression or other mental health issues
What these struggling mothers may not realize is that there are many other, safer options, including private adoption, Safe Haven laws and services available to struggling parents. Stories like Harriette’s highlight the need for increased awareness of these alternatives.
What are Safe Haven Laws?
In 1999, a staggering number of infants were abandoned. According to the Baby Safe Haven website, “never before in a single year had so many mothers decided that they couldn’t care for their children — and then disposed of their newborn infants in an unsafe and tragic way.”
That’s when Safe Haven Infant Protection Laws were enacted to protect these “unwanted” babies — and to protect their mothers from charges of child abandonment. Now, every state has Safe Haven laws that allow mothers to relinquish custody of their infants safely, anonymously and without facing legal repercussions. Since these laws were enacted, it’s estimated that more than 2,000 babies have benefitted.
If you are struggling with thoughts of not wanting your baby, or if you feel you cannot care for your infant at this time in your life, here’s how Safe Haven could work for you:
- You must leave your baby with an on-duty staff member at an approved Safe Haven location. These locations vary by state but often include hospitals, police departments, fire stations and other emergency service providers. You can find safe haven locations in your state here, or call the confidential, toll-free hotline at 1-888-510-BABY to get directions to the closest Safe Haven drop off.
- Your baby must be within your state’s Safe Haven age limit. Each state has different age limits for Safe Haven laws, ranging from three days to one year. You should carefully review your state’s Safe Haven program to ensure your infant is eligible based on his or her age.
- You can leave your unharmed baby at the Safe Haven location. As long as your baby has not been harmed, you can leave him or her with a staff member at the Safe Haven location anonymously and with no legal consequences. However, if you are willing to provide some background information about the infant, such as his or her medical history, that will help ensure that he or she is properly cared for.
Safe Haven Laws are incredibly beneficial for overwhelmed mothers and their babies, and they have helped to save thousands of lives. But what if your baby is older and is not eligible for Safe Haven? What if, like Harriette, you’ve tried parenting, and have since decided that you are not ready to care for your baby?
Adoption is Always an Option
Regardless of your baby’s age, and regardless of your circumstances, adoption is always an option for you. Whether you are currently pregnant, have just given birth or your baby is weeks or even months old, it is never too late to start making an adoption plan. You can always contact American Adoptions to start the process, no matter if:
- you have used alcohol or drugs in the past or during your pregnancy
- your baby’s father is supportive or unsupportive of your adoption plan
- this is your first baby or you have multiple other children
- you are a teenager, an older mother or any age in between
- you have a complicated medical background or family medical history
- your baby is sick or has special needs
Regardless of your circumstances, you can always contact American Adoptions, 24/7, to talk about your options — even if you’re not sure adoption is right for you. Adoption specialists are available to answer your questions and can help you understand your options in your circumstances.
They can also help you understand the benefits of adoption, which include:
- being able to make a plan for yourself and your baby’s future
- being in charge of every part of the adoption process
- choosing the perfect adoptive parents for your baby, if you wish
- access to free counseling and support services
- the option to keep your adoption plan secret from other people in your life, if necessary
- the option to stay in touch with your child and the adoptive parents through open adoption
- and more
When you work with an agency like American Adoptions, you can still relinquish your baby safely, legally and confidentially, and you also have more choices and support in the process. Unlike with Safe Haven, an adoption plan with American Adoptions allows you to get the emotional support you need. It is an option regardless of how old your baby is, and it ensures your infant is quickly placed with a waiting family, rather than entering the foster care system for an unknown amount of time.
If you are a struggling new mother, seek help right away. If you find yourself thinking, “I don’t want my baby,” know that you are not alone, and you have options. No baby should ever be harmed or abandoned.
Adoption specialists are available 24/7 to provide the support and information you need. Contact American Adoptions now at 1-800-ADOPTION, or request free adoption information online. Your information is strictly confidential, and contacting us does not obligate you to choose adoption.