Colorado Safe Haven Laws

The Colorado safe haven laws were enacted in the year 2000.  The law permits parents to surrender anonymously their newborn not older than three days to personnel at a fire station or hospital.  Safe haven laws aim to provide mothers in crisis a safe place to surrender their unwanted newborn.  In Colorado, organizations such as Colorado Safe Haven for Newborns aim at promoting awareness of safe haven laws among the public.

Any hospital employee engaged in care, admission, or treatment of patients or any firefighter may accept temporary physical custody of an infant not older than three days without a court order.  However, firefighter/hospital employee must be on duty in the hospital/fire station while accepting custody.  Additionally, the infant should be voluntarily surrendered by its parents with intent not to take back the child.[i]

The firefighter or hospital employee taking temporary physical custody of an infant shall:

  • perform all acts necessary to protect as well as preserve health and safety of surrendered infant.[ii]
  • notify a law enforcement officer and the County Department within 24 hours of abandonment. [iii]

On receiving notice from any firefighter/hospital staff, a law enforcement officer must take temporary custody of the infant.[viii]

Documents prepared by the hospital employee, firefighter, or law enforcement officer relating to the surrendered infant shall be considered as a dependency and neglect record.  Such documents shall remain confidential.[vii]

Any firefighter or hospital employee shall not incur any civil or criminal liability for any good faith acts or omissions performed while accepting temporary custody and care of the child.[iv]

No parent shall be responsible for an abuse or neglect of a child on the sole ground of abandonment if the abandonment is in accordance with the safe haven laws.[v]  Any parent who is charged for permitting a child not more than three days old to be unreasonably placed in a situation that poses threat to its life or health may raise an affirmative defense that the child was reasonably, safely and knowingly surrendered according to the safe haven laws.[vi]  However, the defense may be raised only if the child was abandoned according to the safe haven laws.

Each County Department of Social Services must maintain a report listing number of infants surrendered to hospitals or fire stations according to the safe haven laws.  The report must be updated on a monthly basis.  Each County Department of Social Services must submit the monthly reports to the State Department of Human Services. The State Department of Human Services after compiling the monthly reports must submit an annual report to the general assembly showing the number of children safely surrendered in a year.[ix]

As declared by the general assembly, County Department of Social Services shall as soon as possible find a potential adoptive parent for the abandoned infant, and place it with the adoptive parent.  Additionally, County Department of Social Services shall also initiate steps to terminate parental rights.  As soon as lawfully possible, the County Department shall proceed with a motion to terminate parental rights.[x]

[i] C.R.S. 19-3-304.5

[ii] C.R.S. 19-3-304.5

[iii] C.R.S. 19-3-304.5

[iv] C.R.S. 19-3-304.5

[v] C.R.S. 19-3-304.5

[vi] C.R.S. 18-6-401

[vii] C.R.S. 19-3-304.5

[viii] C.R.S. 19-3-304.5

[ix] C.R.S. 19-3-304.5

[x] C.R.S. 19-3-304.5


Inside Colorado Safe Haven Laws