In Connecticut, the Safe Havens Act for Newborn creates a safe alternative to leaving infants in unsafe places. The Act allows parents or lawful agents of parents to surrender newborns not more than 30 days old to the nursing staff of a Connecticut hospital emergency room without being subject to arrest for abandonment.
Nursing staff of a hospital emergency room designated to take physical custody of an infant may accept custody of an abandoned infant if the infant is not more than 30 days old and is voluntarily surrendered by its parents or lawful agents of parent with intent not to take back the infant.[ii] Hospitals with an emergency room shall designate all nursing staff of the emergency room as hospital employees authorized to take physical custody of an abandoned newborn. Inside the hospital emergency room there is a designated place where physical custody of a newborn will be taken. During regular hours of business there will be a designated employee on duty at each hospital emergency room.[iii]
After accepting custody of abandoned infant, the designated employee:
- may request the parent/lawful agent of the parent to provide their name and medical history, as well as the medical history of the abandoned infant. However, it is not mandatory for the parent/lawful agent to provide such information. They cannot be compelled to provide any information.[iv]
- may provide the parent/lawful agent a numbered identification bracelet. This bracelet shall serve as a link between the infant and the parent. However, mere possession of identification bracelet does not establish parental rights. The bracelet shall be used for identification only, and shall not authorize the person possessing the identification bracelet to claim the surrendered infant.[v]
- shall provide parent/lawful agent with a pamphlet describing the process relating to the safe abandonment of infants, reunification of parent with newborn, information about safe surrender sites, and confidentiality of information disclosed to designated employees.[vi]
- must notify the Department of Children and Families within 24 hours of taking physical custody.[vii]
Upon receiving notification from designated employee, the Commissioner of Children and Families shall immediately assume care and control of the infant. [viii] The Commissioner shall also take actions necessary for the safety and well being of infant. An infant under the care and custody of the Commissioner as per Safe Haven laws shall be considered to be under the custody of the Department of Children and Families.[ix]
Any information relating to the medical history of a parent/agent or infant disclosed to the designated employee in an hospital emergency room shall be confidential. Such information shall not be disclosed to any person other than the Commissioner of Children and Families.[x]
Any parent/agent who surrenders an infant according to the Safe Haven laws shall not be guilty of any offense under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53-21(a) (dealing with injury or risk of injury to children.)[xi]; and shall also not be liable for abandoning a child under the age of six.
Any parent or lawful agent who abandoned its infant according to Safe Haven laws may submit a request to the Commissioner of Children and Families to reunite the parent/agent with its infant. The Commissioner after an enquiry about the person reclaiming the child shall decide if such reunification is appropriate, or if the parental rights of the person are to be terminated.[xii]
Information disclosed to the designated employee by the parent/agent while surrendering its infant to the designated employee shall remain confidential. However, the designated employee may disclose the medical information provided by the parent/agent to the Commissioner of Children and Families.[xiii]
Possession of identification bracelet linking the infant and parent/agent shall not establish maternity, paternity, or custody of the surrendered infant. However, if the parental rights are not terminated, possession of the identification bracelet creates a presumption that the parent/agent has a standing to participate in a custody hearing for the infant.[xiv]
In Connecticut, the Department of Children and Families, in consultation with the Attorney General, shall conduct a public information program which explains the process regarding safe surrender of newborns.[xv] The program includes distribution of pamphlets to mothers and their agents describing the process of safely abandoning newborns. The pamphlet shall contain: [xvi]
- information explaining the process for safely surrendering an unwanted newborn; and sites where the infant may be lawfully surrendered.
- protections offered to parents/agents abandoning infants according to the Safe Haven laws.
- Future of the infant after abandonment.
- The procedure for contacting the Department of Children and Families in case the parent/agent wishes to reunite with its infant.
- Timelines involved in the termination of parental rights and adoption.
- All other information that may be relevant.
[ii] Conn. Gen. Stat. § 17a-58(a)
[iii] Conn. Gen. Stat. § 17a-57
[iv] Conn. Gen. Stat. § 17a-58(b)
[v] Conn. Gen. Stat. § 17a-58(b)
[vi] Conn. Gen. Stat. § 17a-58(b)
[vii] Conn. Gen. Stat. § 17a-59(a)
[viii] Conn. Gen. Stat. § 17a-59(b)
[ix] Conn. Gen. Stat. § 17a-59(c)
[x] Conn. Gen. Stat. § 17a-60(b)
[xi] Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53-21(b)
[xii] Conn. Gen. Stat. § 17a-60(a)
[xiii] Conn. Gen. Stat. § 17a-60(b)
[xiv] Conn. Gen. Stat. § 17a-60(c)
[xv] Conn. Gen. Stat. § 17a-61
[xvi] Conn. Gen. Stat. § 17a-61