Hawaii safe haven laws were enacted in the year 2007 in response to deaths of abandoned newborns. Safe surrender laws aim at focusing on the child’s needs and exempt mothers surrendering their newborns from prosecution for child abandonment.
The purpose of Hawaii safe haven laws is to establish a safe haven for newborns and protect the health and safety of the abandoned newborn. In order to achieve this goal, safe haven laws provide immunity from prosecution to any person surrendering a newborn at any hospital, fire station, police station, or with emergency medical services personnel so that people in helpless situations may abandon newborns without fearing prosecution. Entity accepting custody of the child is also exempt from liability. The law also requires entity accepting custody of the child to make reasonable efforts to get the medical background of the surrendered infant and its family from the person surrendering the infant in order to ensure a healthy future to the newborn.[i]
Safe haven laws permit any person to surrender a newborn not older than 72 hours at any hospital, fire station, police station, or with any emergency services personnel without fear of prosecution. The newborn must be in an unharmed condition while surrendering it.[ii] HRS § 587D-1 defines “unharmed condition” as a condition where the child is alive and there is no evidence of injury to the newborn child’s physical or psychological health or welfare. The child should not be a victim of sexual contact or conduct including rape, sodomy or molestation; should be provided with basic needs of food and clothing; and should not be provided any harmful, detrimental, or dangerous drugs.
Any personnel of a hospital, fire station, or police station, or emergency services personnel receiving the newborn must make all reasonable efforts to provide the child with necessary support and care to protect and preserve its health and safety while in temporary custody. [iii] They shall also make reasonable efforts to get the following information from the person surrendering the newborn: name of the newborn; name and address of the parent or person surrendering the newborn; birth place of the newborn; newborn’s medical history; newborn’s biological family’s medical history including major illness and diseases; the surrendering person’s desire with regard to reclaiming the newborn; and any other information that might be necessary for the department to determine the best interests of the infant.[iv] However, the person cannot be compelled to provide the information, and safe haven locations may not refuse to accept a newborn if the person does not provide the requested information.
Any hospital/fire station/police station/emergency services personnel receiving the newborn shall provide the person leaving the newborn with information on how to contact relevant social service agencies.[v] Personnel accepting custody of the newborn must also notify appropriate law enforcement agencies that a newborn child was received. This will help in finding out if the received child is a missing child. [vi]
Any personnel accepting physical custody of the abandoned newborn must notify the department of human services within 24 hours of accepting custody of the newborn. [vii] The Department should be notified only after the person surrendering the newborn has left the safe-surrender site. However, if the abandoned child is in a harmed condition the appropriate law enforcement agencies should be notified immediately, irrespective of whether the surrendering person has left the premises or not.
Any hospital, health care provider, or hospital personnel working at the hospital; a fire station and any firefighter or fire personnel; a police station and any police officer or police personnel; and emergency services personnel acting in good faith in receiving a newborn child shall be immune from any civil or criminal liability that otherwise might result from merely receiving a newborn child.[viii] They are also immune from civil or criminal liabilities that otherwise might result from the failure to make a report under section 350-1.1 if the person is acting in good faith in complying with the safe haven laws.[ix]
On receiving custody of an abandoned newborn from any hospital, fire station, police station or emergency services personnel, the department of human services makes efforts to reunite the newborn child with the newborn’s parents. The department may search for the newborn’s relatives as a placement or permanency option. Alternatively, the department may implement other placement requirements that give a preference to relatives. Tracing the newborn’s relatives is possible only if the department has information relating to the identity of the newborn child, the newborn child’s mother, or the newborn child’s father. [x]
A newborn child left at a hospital, fire station, or police station or with emergency services personnel according to the safe haven laws shall be considered an abandoned child for purposes of adoption proceedings. [xi]
Any person leaving a newborn at a hospital, fire station, or police station or with emergency services personnel in compliance with the safe haven laws shall not be liable for the offense of abandonment of a child under HRS § 709-902.[xii]
[i] HRS Div. 3, Tit. 31, Ch. 587D Note
[ii] HRS § 587D-2
[iii] HRS § 587D-3(c)
[iv] HRS § 587D-3(b)(1)
[v] HRS § 587D-3(b)(2)
[vi] HRS § 587D-3(b)(3)
[vii] HRS § 587D-4
[viii] HRS § 587D-5(a)
[ix] HRS § 587D-5(b)
[x] HRS § 587D-6
[xi] HRS § 587D-7
[xii] HRS § 709-902(2)