Safe place for newborns: Saving babies' lives
Program provides care for babies without prosecution for abandonment or neglect
Madison Catholic Herald
MADISON - You've probably heard stories or know someone who
experienced newborn abandonment.
Usually, it involves a frightened mother who denied or hid
her pregnancy because she didn't want to believe it herself.
Perhaps she was unmarried or did not know how she would take
care of a baby financially. She was scared. Then, the baby
was born. What could she do? She thought if someone found
the baby on the sidewalk, they would care for it. Or maybe
she could hide it, and no one would ever know.
In response, Safe Place for Newborns - the first program of
its kind in Wisconsin - has started in Dane County to save
Under the program, which began in July, a woman can bring
her unharmed baby (up to three days old) to any Dane County
hospital personnel and ask to leave the baby in a "Safe
Place for Newborns" without fear of prosecution for
abandonment or neglect. The only requirement is to fill out
a form about the child's background.
The baby is cared for at the hospital and social services
"I'm proud to be in a community that is doing something
proactive to save the lives of infants," said Helen Healy,
president of the Dane County chapter of Safe Place for
Newborns, a national organization based in Minneapolis.
Healy and her husband, Tim, vice president of the program,
have three children and a fourth on the way. They are
members of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, Madison.
The program is a community effort involving Dane County
District Attorney G. Brian Brophy, the Department of Human
Services, and the county's four hospitals, Healy said.
Grant and Nancy Emmel of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish and David
and Linda Slakne of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, all of
Madison, also were instrumental in organizing the program.
Healy said the people involved, including the mayor and
other Dane County officials, have been very supportive.
"Together we've created a solution for a problem," she said.
Reps. Jeff Plale (D-Milwaukee) and Suzanne Jeskewitz
(R-Menomonee Falls) have been working on a proposal
independent of Safe Place for Newborns and a task force is
drafting legislation, that could be introduced early next
year, to make Safe Place for Newborns a statewide program,
Healy said. She said 13 states have passed similar laws and
12 have legislation pending.
"We have an educational and media campaign that will begin
in November and will focus on college and high school
students," Healy said. "We're targeting young people between
14 and 24."
Safe Place for Newborns "will save lives and it reaffirms
the sacredness of life," said Susan Armacost of Wisconsin
Right to Life.
Healy said tax deductible contributions may be made to: Safe
Place for Newborns, P.O. Box 628, Middleton WI 53562. Safe
Place for Newborns also has a crisis hotline at
1-877-440-BABY. The website is www.safeplacefornewborns.org.