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District of Columbia Safe Haven Laws

In District of Columbia, the “Newborn Safe Haven Temporary Act of 2009” (Act 18-80) governs law relating to safe abandonment of babies.  Sections 2 through 8 of D.C. Law 18- (Act 18-80) contain provisions concerning the safe surrender of newborn infants.  D.C. Law 18-29 became effective on July 18, 2009. According to the Act, a parent may leave a newborn not older than seven days with the personnel of an Authorized Receiving Facility during its normal hours of operation.  “Authorized Receiving Facility” means a hospital, or other place authorized by the Mayor, by rule, to accept a newborn surrendered according to the safe haven laws. An Authorized Receiving Facility shall post a sign in a conspicuous place on the exterior of the facility that states in plain terms that a newborn may be surrendered at the facility in accordance with the Act.A parent surrendering a child has the right to remain anonymous and may leave the facility at any time without being followed.  However, efforts may be made to identify and pursue the parent if the child is a victim of child abuse or neglect. The personnel receiving the newborn shall:

a)     make reasonable efforts to collect from the newborn’s parent, family and medical history of the newborn.  However, the parent has the right to remain anonymous and the personnel may not ask the parent to disclose any personal information. 

b)     provide information on adoption and counseling services.

c)     file a written statement with the Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) mentioning the date, time and circumstances of the surrender.  The statement may be filed either before or at the time the CFSA assumes physical custody of the newborn. 

 Upon receiving the written statement from the personnel receiving the newborn, the CFSA shall take immediate care, custody, and control of the surrendered newborn.

An Authorized Receiving Facility other than a hospital receiving a newborn shall transport the newborn to the nearest hospital as soon as transportation can be arranged.  The act of surrendering a newborn shall constitute implied consent for the treatment and care of the newborn by the hospital’s medical personnel, and further placement with CFSA.  The hospital personnel receiving a newborn shall immediately contact the CFSA to report the surrender of the newborn.  The personnel shall also arrange for the transport of the newborn to the CFSA within 23 hours of receiving it.

A relinquishment of parental rights shall take place upon surrender of the newborn.  However, relinquishment of parental rights under this act may be revoked and parental rights restored in accordance with the provisions of the Placement Act.

Within 20 days after the expiration of the ten day revocation period provided for in section 6(c) of the placement act (dealing with Parental rights-termination or relinquishment), CFSA shall file with the Family Court of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia a form acknowledging the surrender.  A copy of the written statement received by the CFSA from the facility personnel shall also be filed.

An Authorized Receiving Facility and the personnel of an Authorized Receiving Facility shall be immune from civil or criminal liability for discharging in good faith responsibilities required to be performed under the Act.  

A parent surrendering a newborn according to the Act shall not be prosecuted for surrendering the child.  Surrendering a newborn shall not, by itself, constitute a basis for a finding of abuse, neglect, or abandonment of a newborn.


Inside District of Columbia Safe Haven Laws