Beyond the headline: 'Safe haven' doesn't mean just leaving baby on a doorstep

A Safe Haven sign displayed outside a fire station on Oct 8, 2019.
A Safe Haven sign displayed outside a fire station on Oct 8, 2019. (KPRC)

After an hours-old infant was dropped off at a fire station in southwest Houston Tuesday morning, officials said the baby's parents won't be investigated because the woman transferred the baby to first responders in accordance with the Safe Haven or Baby Moses laws. 

In 1999, then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush signed the first law in the country to help prevent babies from being abandoned by creating safe places for parents to surrender them to authorities. Since then, other states have adopted laws to protect newborn babies. The National Safe Haven alliance lists 4,015 babies saved

Rules for safe surrender in Texas:

  • The baby must be 60 days or younger
  • The baby must be unharmed and safe
  • The baby must be surrendered at a place that's a designated Safe Haven. The baby can be safely surrendered at any hospital, fire station, or EMS station in Texas 
  • The baby must NOT be left on a doorstep at any of these places. The adult needs to hand the baby to an employee and tell them they are leaving the child at a Safe Haven 
  • The employee might ask for family or medical history to ensure the baby gets the care it needs 

What happens next?

After a baby is safely surrendered, it is immediately given medical care and taken to a hospital. The person or organization the baby was surrendered to must immediately contact The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (TDFPS), which then takes custody of the baby and places it for adoption. 

In the rare chance that a parent changes their mind, they will have a few days to come back and speak with the authorities about what can be done for the baby. 

Will the parents be investigated? 

A parent will not be investigated or prosecuted for abandonment or neglect if the baby is unharmed and they meet all the requirements laid out above. They will also be able to remain anonymous. 

Resources for parents 

If you or someone you know needs to find a Safe Haven, you can visit the Safe Haven website or call 1-888-510-BABY. 

You can also find safe havens around the country on the National Safe Haven Alliance map