Illinois Safe Heaven Law

The Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act was passed in Illinois in the year 2001.  The Act provides a mechanism for the safe surrender of newborn infants preserving the anonymity of parents.  It protects the parents from facing any civil or criminal liability for the act of relinquishing their newborns.  The Act also encourages public information campaign on safe haven laws in order to make the public aware of the option of safely surrendering their unwanted newborns. 

All hospitals must accept custody of the newborn and provide all necessary emergency services and care to a relinquished newborn infant, in accordance with this Act. The hospital shall examine a relinquished newborn infant and perform necessary medical tests to determine and evaluate if the relinquished newborn infant was abused or neglected.[i]  The hospital accepting custody of the relinquished infant shall be deemed to have temporary protective custody of the newborn infant until the infant is discharged to the custody of a child-placing agency or the Department.[ii]

All fire stations, police stations and emergency medical facilities must accept and provide all necessary emergency services and care to a relinquished newborn infant, in accordance with this Act. After the relinquishment of a newborn infant to a fire station, police station, or emergency medical facility, personnels of the location must arrange for the transportation of the infant to the nearest hospital as soon as transportation can be arranged. If the parent of a newborn infant returns to reclaim the child within 72 hours after relinquishing the child to a fire station or emergency medical facility, the facility must inform the parent of the name and location of the hospital to which the infant was transported. [iii]

The act of relinquishing a newborn infant according to the Act serves as implied consent for the hospital, police station, fire station or emergency medical facility and its personnels to treat and provide care for the infant. [iv]

A safe haven that receives a newborn infant relinquished in accordance with this Act must offer an information packet to the relinquishing person.  The safe haven must try to inform the relinquishing person that his/her acceptance of the information, and registration with the Illinois Adoption Registry and Medical Information Exchange is completely voluntary.  The relinquishing person should also be informed that the person will remain anonymous if he or she completes a Denial of Information Exchange.  He/she should also be informed that the person has the option to provide medical information only and still remain anonymous. The information packet must include all of the following:[v]

  • All Illinois Adoption Registry and Medical Information Exchange application forms, including the Medical Information Exchange Questionnaire and the web site address and toll-free phone number of the Registry.
  • Written notice of the following: a) no sooner than 60 days following the date of the initial relinquishment of the infant to a safe haven location, the child-placing agency or the Department will commence proceedings for the termination of parental rights and placement of the infant for adoption; and b) relinquishing parent’s future actions asserting legal rights in relation to the infant will be barred if the parent fails to file a petition for reclaiming the child before the termination of parental rights.
  • A resource list of counseling services providers including grief counseling, pregnancy counseling, and counseling regarding adoption and other available options for placement of the infant.

On request, the Department of Public Health shall provide the application forms for the Illinois Adoption Registry and Medical Information Exchange to hospitals, police stations, fire stations, and emergency medical facilities.

The Act presumes that a person relinquishing the newborn infant according to the safe haven laws is the infant’s biological parent, and consents to the termination of his/her parental rights with respect to the infant.  The Act further presumes that either without expressing an intent to return for the infant or expressing an intent not to return for the infant, the person surrendering the infant intended to relinquish the infant to the hospital, police station, fire station, or emergency medical facility to treat, care for, and provide for the infant in accordance with this Act.[vi]  The parent may rebut such presumption at any time before the termination of the parent’s parental rights. [vii]
Every hospital, fire station, emergency medical facility, and police station that may accept a relinquished newborn infant in accordance with this Act must post a sign on the exterior of the building housing the facility.  To ensure statewide uniformity in the signs, the Illinois department of Children and Family Services shall prescribe specifications of the signs.  The posted signs inform the public that a newborn infant may be relinquished at the facility in accordance with this Act. [viii]  This Section does not apply to a hospital, fire station, emergency medical facility, or police station that has a sign that is consistent with the requirements of this Section that is posted on the effective date of this amendatory Act of the 95th General Assembly.

Relinquishing a newborn to a safe haven in accordance with the Act by itself does not constitute neglect, abuse or abandonment of the newborn.  It does not constitute a violation of Section 12-21.5 or 12-21.6 of the Criminal Code of 1961.[ix]  Safe haven personnel who are mandated reporters under the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act must report the abuse or neglect of a newborn in cases where there is suspected child abuse or neglect that is not based solely on the newborn infant’s relinquishment to a safe haven.[x]  Any child protective investigation or criminal investigation may not be initiated solely because a newborn infant is relinquished pursuant to the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act.

A hospital, police station, fire station, or emergency medical facility, and any personnel of a safe haven are immune from criminal or civil liability for acting in good faith in accordance with this Act. However, the Act does not limit liability for negligence for care and medical treatment.[xi]

In cases where there is no evidence of abuse or neglect of a relinquished newborn, the relinquishing person has the right to remain anonymous and to leave the safe haven location at any time without being pursued or followed.[xii]  Before the relinquishing person leaves the hospital, police station, fire station, or emergency medical facility, the personnel at such location must verbally inform the relinquishing person that by relinquishing the child anonymously, he/she will have to file a petition before the court if he/she desires to prevent the termination of parental rights and regain custody of the child. [xiii]  Safe haven personnels shall also offer the relinquishing person the information packet described in Section 35 of the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act. [xiv] However, if desired, the relinquishing person may disclose his/her identity and complete the application forms for the Illinois Adoption Registry and Medical Information Exchange.  They may also request the hospital, police station, fire station, or emergency medical facility to forward those forms to the Illinois Adoption Registry and Medical Information Exchange.

Emergency medical professionals, employees, or other persons engaged in the administration or operation of a safe haven, child-placing agency, or the Department where a baby has been relinquished or transferred under this Act, are prohibited from publicly disclosing any information concerning the relinquishment of the infant and the individuals involved in the relinquishment.  However, information required by law may be disclosed.[xv]
Within 12 hours of accepting a newborn infant from a relinquishing person or from a police station, fire station or emergency medical facility in accordance with the Act, a hospital must report to the Department’s State Central Registry in order to transfer physical custody of the infant from the hospital to either a child-placing agency or the Department.[xvi]

Within 24 hours of receiving a report from the hospital accepting custody of a newborn, the Department must try to find out if the child is a missing child by requesting assistance from law enforcement officials to investigate the matter using the National Crime Information Center.  Additionally, the Department has a duty of arranging a licensed child-placing agency to accept physical custody of the relinquished newborn infant. [xvii]  If the relinquished child is more than a week old as defined in this Act, the hospital and the Department must proceed as if the child is an abused or neglected child.[xviii]

A newborn infant relinquished according to this Act shall be eligible for medical assistance under the Illinois Public Aid Code.  Hospitals providing medical services to such an infant shall be reimbursed for those services in accordance with the payment methodologies authorized under that Code. Additionally, in cases where the hospital has custody of a newborn infant relinquished in accordance with this Act and the infant does not require any medical care, the hospital shall be reimbursed by the Department of Healthcare and Family Services at the general acute care per diem rate, in accordance with 89 Ill. Adm. Code 148.270(c).[xix]

The Department’s State Central Registry must maintain a list of licensed child-placing agencies willing to take legal custody of newborn infants relinquished in accordance with this Act.  On receiving notice from the hospital of the acceptance of a relinquished child, the Department shall contact a child-placing agency on the list on a rotating basis.  After receiving notice from the Department that a newborn infant has been relinquished in accordance with this Act, a child-placing agency must accept the newborn infant if the agency has the capability of accommodating it.  The child-placing agency must seek an order for legal custody of the infant upon its acceptance of the infant.  Within 3 business days of assuming physical custody of the infant, the child-placing agency shall file a petition in the division of the circuit court in which petitions for adoption would normally be heard. The petition shall allege that the newborn infant has been relinquished in accordance with this Act and shall state that the child-placing agency intends to place the infant in an adoptive home. When possible, the child-placing agency must place the relinquished newborn infant in a prospective adoptive home.  In cases where any licensed child-placing agency is able to accept the custody of the relinquished newborn infant, the Department must assume responsibility for the infant as soon as practicable.[xx]

On accepting custody of the newborn infant, the Department or child-placing agency must initiate proceedings to: a) terminate parental rights of the relinquished newborn infant’s known or unknown parents; b) appoint a guardian for the infant; and c) obtain consent to the infant’s adoption in accordance with this Act no sooner than 60 days following the date of the initial relinquishment of the infant to any safe haven.[xxi]

However, before filing a petition for termination of parental rights, the Department or child-placing agency must: a) search its Putative Father Registry to determine the identity and location of the putative father of the relinquished newborn infant.  The search is done to provide to the putative father notice of adoption proceeding, if any.  At least one search of the Registry must be conducted, at least 30 days after the relinquished newborn infant’s estimated date of birth; and b) verify with law enforcement officials, using the National Crime Information Center, that the relinquished newborn infant is not a missing child. [xxii]

At any time before the termination of parental rights, the parent of a relinquished newborn infant may file a petition for the return of custody of infant. If a petition for the termination of parental rights has not been filed by the Department or the child-placing agency, the parent reclaiming the custody of the child must contact the Department to get the name of the child-placing agency having custody of the child and then file a petition for return of custody in the circuit court before which the proceeding for the termination of parental rights is pending.  The Department must notify the parent the court in which the petition for return of custody must be filed.[xxiii]
The circuit court may temporarily hold the proceeding for the termination of parental rights in abeyance for a period not exceeding 60 days from the date that the petition for return of custody was filed without a showing of good cause. During that period: the court shall order genetic testing to establish maternity or paternity, or both; and the Department shall conduct a child protective investigation and home study to develop recommendations to the court.  If the results of the Department’s investigation and home study indicate that further proceedings are to be conducted, proceedings under the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 as the court determines appropriate, may be conducted. [xxiv]

However, relinquishment of a newborn according to the Act does not render the infant abused, neglected, or abandoned solely because the newborn infant was relinquished to a safe haven location. [xxv]  If a parent fails to file a petition for the return of custody of a relinquished newborn infant before the termination of parental rights, he/she is bared from making any future action asserting legal rights with respect to the newborn.  However, if the parent’s act of relinquishment that led to the termination of parental rights involved fraud perpetrated against and not stemming from or involving the parent he may not be barred from making a claim.  Actions to void or revoke the termination of parental rights of a parent of a newborn infant relinquished in accordance with the Act, including an action based on fraud may not be commenced after the expiry of 12 months starting from the date of abandonment of the newborn at a safe haven location. [xxvi]
The Department of Children and Family Services must implement a public information program to make the public aware of the safe haven laws and promote safe placement alternatives for newborn infants. The public information program may include educational and informational materials in print, audio, video, electronic or other media; web site establishment; public service announcements and advertisements; and toll-free telephone hotlines to provide information.  The public information program must inform the public of the following: [xxvii]

  • An option for relinquishing a newborn less than 7 days of age preserving the anonymity of the relinquishing person.
  • The alternative of adoption through a public or private agency, in which the parent’s identity may or may not be known to the agency, but is kept anonymous from the adoptive parents, if the birth parent so desires, and which allows the parent to be actively involved in the child’s adoption plan.

Illinois Department of Children and Family Services shall collect and analyze information regarding the relinquishment of newborn infants and placement of children under this Act. Safe havens accepting custody of the Police stations, fire stations, emergency medical facilities, and medical professionals accepting and providing services to a newborn infant under this Act shall report to the Department data required to evaluate and determine the effect of this Act in the prevention of injury or death of newborn infants. [xxviii] Child-placing agencies shall report to the Department data necessary to evaluate and determine the effectiveness of these agencies in providing child protective and child welfare services to newborn infants relinquished under this Act.[xxix]
Based on the data collected, the Department shall have the following information: number of newborn infants relinquished; services provided to relinquished newborns; outcome of care for the relinquished newborns; the number and disposition of cases of relinquished newborn infants subject to placement; the number of children accepted and served by child-placing agencies; and the services provided by child-placing agencies and the disposition of the cases of the children placed under this Act.[xxx]
The Department shall submit a report to the Governor and General Assembly regarding the prevention of injury or death of newborn infants and the effect of placements of children under this Act on January 1 of each year.  The report shall include a summary of collected data, an analysis of the data and conclusions regarding the Act’s effectiveness.  The report shall also include a determination of whether the purposes of the Act are being achieved, and recommendations for improving the administration and enforcement of this Act. [xxxi]
However, the provision of this Act does not preclude the State courts from exercising their discretion to protect the health and safety of children in individual cases. The best interests and welfare of a child shall be a paramount consideration in the construction and interpretation of this Act.[xxxii]  

[i] 325 ILCS 2/20

[ii] 325 ILCS 2/20

[iii] 325 ILCS 2/20

[iv] 325 ILCS 2/20

[v] 325 ILCS 2/35

[vi] 325 ILCS 2/15

[vii] 325 ILCS 2/15

[viii] 325 ILCS 2/22.

[ix] 325 ILCS 2/25(a)

[x] 325 ILCS 2/25(b)

[xi] 325 ILCS 2/27

[xii] 325 ILCS 2/30

[xiii] 325 ILCS 2/30(i)

[xiv] 325 ILCS 2/30(ii)

[xv] 325 ILCS 2/37

[xvi] 325 ILCS 2/40

[xvii] 325 ILCS 2/40

[xviii] 325 ILCS 2/40

[xix] 325 ILCS 2/45

[xx] 325 ILCS 2/50

[xxi] 325 ILCS 2/50

[xxii] 325 ILCS 2/50

[xxiii] 325 ILCS 2/55

[xxiv] 325 ILCS 2/55

[xxv] 325 ILCS 2/55

[xxvi] 325 ILCS 2/55

[xxvii] 325 ILCS 2/60

[xxviii] 325 ILCS 2/65(a)

[xxix] 325 ILCS 2/65(a)

[xxx] 325 ILCS 2/65(a)

[xxxi] 325 ILCS 2/65(a)

[xxxii] 325 ILCS 2/70


Inside Illinois Safe Heaven Law