Idaho Safe Heaven Law

The Idaho Safe Haven Act was passed in 2001 to protect abandoned infants.  The Act was passed in response to the unsafe abandonment of newborns and resulting tragedies.  The Act provides a safe alternative for parents who might otherwise abandon their baby.  According to the Act, custodial parents may abandon their unwanted newborns not older than 30 days without fear of prosecution.  The identity of the parent shall be kept confidential.

The Act provides that safe havens may take temporary physical custody of a child not older than 30 days delivered by its custodial parents to any safe havens with an express intent not to take back the child.[i] Safe havens may accept custody without a court order. Idaho Code § 39-8202(2) defines safe haven as hospitals, physicians, or assistant physicians licensed in the state of Idaho.  The section specifically states:

(2) “Safe haven” means:

(a) Hospitals licensed in the state of Idaho;

(b) Licensed physicians in the state of Idaho and staff working at their offices and clinics;

(c) Advanced practice professional nurses including certified nurse-midwives, clinical nurse specialists, nurse practitioners and certified registered nurse anesthetists licensed or registered pursuant to chapter 14, title 54, Idaho Code;

(d) Physician assistants licensed pursuant to chapter 18, title 54, Idaho Code.

(e) Medical personnel when making an emergency response to a “911” call from a custodial parent, for the purpose of taking temporary physical custody of a child pursuant to the provisions of this act. For purposes of this act, “medical personnel” shall include those individuals certified by the department of health and welfare as:

(i) First responders;

(ii) Emergency medical technicians — basic;

(iii) Advanced emergency medical technicians — ambulance;

(iv) Emergency medical technicians — intermediate; and

(v) Emergency medical technicians — paramedic.
After accepting custody of the newborn, the safe haven shall perform all necessary acts to protect, preserve, and aid the physical health and safety of the newborn while in temporary physical custody. [ii] Safe havens, if required, may deliver the child to a hospital for care and treatment.  Safe havens also have the responsibility of notifying a peace officer or other person appointed by the court of abandonment that a child has been taken into temporary physical custody. [iii] Safe havens shall not inquire about any identification information of the custodial parent. If safe haven comes to know the identity of the person, it shall keep such information confidential.  However, parents can voluntarily provide information such as family medical history of the parent or child.[iv]

Upon notification by a safe haven, a peace officer or any other person appointed by the court shall take protective custody of the child and shall immediately deliver the child to the care, control and custody of the department of health and welfare.  In cases where the child requires further medical evaluation, care or treatment, the child shall be left in the care of a hospital and the peace officer or other person appointed by the court shall notify the court and prosecutor of the action taken.  They shall also provide the address of the place where the child is located so that a shelter care hearing may be held if necessary.[v]  After accepting custody of the abandoned child, the department of health and welfare shall place the child with a potential adoptive parent as soon as possible.[vi]

The department shall try to find out if the abandoned child is a missing child during the first 30 days of receiving a child by the safe haven.  The department shall request the help of law enforcement officials to investigate through the missing children information clearinghouse and other state and national resources and find out if the abandoned child is a missing child.[vii]  Soon after the expiry of 30 days, the department shall file a petition to terminate the parental rights of the custodial parent who abandoned the child at the safe haven, and any unknown parent pursuant to section 16-1624, Idaho Code, and in accordance with chapter 20, title 16, Idaho Code. [viii]  The department shall file a petition for adjudicatory hearing to vest legal custody in the department pursuant to section 16-1621, Idaho Code.  A shelter care hearing shall also be held pursuant to section 16-1615, Idaho Code. [ix]  An adjudicatory hearing shall be conducted pursuant to the provisions of section 16-1619 and 16-1621 of Idaho Code[x] at or prior to the time set for shelter care hearing.

Safe havens with the responsibility for performing duties with regard to the abandoned infant, and any employee, doctor, or other personnel working at the safe haven, are immune from any civil or criminal liability for all acts done in good faith in accepting the child and performing duties required by safe haven laws.  Any custodial parent may leave a child with a safe haven in the state without being liable for prosecution for abandonment pursuant to the provisions of title 18, Idaho Code.[xi]  However, parents may be exempted from prosecution only if the child was not more than 30 days old while it was left at the safe haven, and was within a reasonable degree of medical certainty.  Peace officers or any other person appointed by the court accepting the custody of the child is immune from civil and criminal liability for all acts done in good faith and in accordance with the safe haven laws. [xii]

A child protective investigation or criminal investigation shall be initiated based on a claim of abandonment only if a claim of parental rights is made and the court orders the investigation. [xiii]  A parent shall not be considered to have neglected or abandoned its child on the sole ground of abandoning it at a safe haven.  After abandoning a newborn according to the safe haven laws the parent may make a claim of parental rights by filing a notice of claim of parental rights with the vital statistics unit of the department of health and welfare. To be valid, a claim of parental rights must be filed before the court enters an order terminating parental rights.  Parents who fail to make their parental rights claim before the order are deemed to have abandoned the child and waived and surrendered any right in relation to the child, including the right to notice of any judicial proceeding in connection with the termination of parental rights or adoption of the child.  The vital statistics unit of the department of health and welfare shall maintain an abandoned child registry for the purpose of considering such claims which shall be subject to disclosure according to chapter 3, title 9 of Idaho Code.[xiv]

Claim of parental rights must be made on forms provided by the department and made available through the vital statistics unit of the Idaho department of health and welfare.  The forms shall be available in the office of the county clerk in every county of Idaho state.  Any parent claiming a parental right of an abandoned child must file the form with the vital statistics unit of the department of health and welfare. The form must be filled out completely and provide the name and address for service of the person asserting the parental claim.  Approximate date of leaving the child at the safe haven should also be included. The form must be signed by the person making the claim of parental right and be witnessed before a notary public.  The department shall record the date and time of filing the claim with the department. The claim shall be deemed to be duly filed with the department as of the date and time recorded on the claim by the department.[xv]

Before the time set for hearing the petition to terminate parental rights filed by the department of health and welfare; and prior to entry of an order terminating parental rights by the court, the department of health and welfare shall obtain and file with the court a certificate from the vital statistics unit of the department of health and welfare.  The certificate must be signed by the state registrar of vital statistics, and shall state that a diligent search has been made of the registry of claims of parental rights of abandoned children, abandoned according to the safe haven laws.  The certificate shall also include the result of the search. [xvi]

If a claim of parental rights is made before an order terminating parental rights, a notice pursuant to section 16-2007, Idaho Code, will be required.  The court shall also hold the action for involuntary termination of parental rights in abeyance for a period not more than 60 days unless otherwise ordered by the court.  During that period of hold: a) the court shall order genetic testing to establish maternity or paternity.  Tests shall be made at the expense of the person or persons making the claim; b) the department of health and welfare shall conduct an investigation as per section 16-2008 of Idaho Code.  In cases where a guardian ad litem has been appointed, the guardian ad litem shall have all rights, powers and duties as provided for in chapter 16, title 16, Idaho Code, and as provided for in chapter 20, title 16, Idaho Code; c) based on the results of the investigation, a shelter care hearing shall be conducted by the court in accordance with section 16-1615, Idaho Code within forty-eight hours.  The hearing may be held at an earlier time if ordered by the court.  The hearing is held to determine whether the child should remain in the physical custody of the department or be released to a parent or other third party.  Further proceedings shall be conducted as the court determines appropriate. [xvii]

If there is no showing that a parent has claimed a parental right to the child, the department of health and welfare shall file with the court a certificate from the vital statistics unit of the department of health and welfare stating that a diligent search has been made of the registry of parental claims for children abandoned according to the safe haven laws and that no parental claim has been made.  The certificate must be signed by the state registrar of vital statistics.  It must be filed with the court prior to the final order terminating parental rights. [xviii]

[i] Idaho Code § 39-8203(1)

[ii] Idaho Code § 39-8203(2)(a)

[iii] Idaho Code § 39-8203(2)(b)

[iv] Idaho Code § 39-8203(3)

[v] Idaho Code § 39-8204 (1)

[vi] Idaho Code § 39-8204 (2)

[vii]Idaho Code § 39-8205(3)

[viii]Idaho Code § 39-8205(5)

[ix]Idaho Code § 39-8205(1)

[x]Idaho Code § 39-8205(4)

[xi] Idaho Code § 39-8204

[xii] Idaho Code § 39-8204 (3)

[xiii]Idaho Code § 39-8205(2)

[xiv]Idaho Code § 39-8206

[xv]Idaho Code § 39-8206

[xvi]Idaho Code § 39-8206

[xvii]Idaho Code § 39-8206

[xviii]Idaho Code § 39-8206


Inside Idaho Safe Heaven Law