Kentucky Safe Haven Laws

The Representative Thomas J. Burch Safe Infants Act governs the safe haven laws in Kentucky. Kentucky Revised Statutes sections 211.951, 216B.190, 311.6526, 405.075, 620.350, and 620.355 shall be known as “The Representative Thomas J. Burch Safe Infants Act.”[i] KRS § 311.6526 is repealed now.

Any parent who leaves a newborn infant not older than 72 hours with an emergency medical services provider, police station, fire station, or hospital with intent not to return for the infant shall have the right to remain anonymous and not be followed.  Such parent who relinquishes the newborn infant according to the provisions of the Act shall not be considered to have abandoned or endangered the newborn infant.[ii]  However, the protections offered by the Act shall not be available to the parent if the relinquished infant is subject to child abuse or neglect.[iii]

Any emergency medical services provider, police officer, or firefighter accepting physical custody of a newborn infant has the duty to immediately transport the infant to the nearest hospital emergency room.  Entities accepting the newborn shall have implied consent to any necessary medical treatment.[iv]

Every hospital in the state of Kentucky that offers emergency services shall admit and provide all necessary medical care, diagnostic tests, and medical treatment to any newborn infant brought to the hospital when the identity of the parents is unknown.[v]  On admitting the newborn infant, the physician or hospital administrator shall immediately contact the local office of the Department for Community Based Services. The Department shall immediately seek an emergency custody order.[vi]

Any person performing medical care, diagnostic testing, or medical treatment shall be immune from criminal or civil liability for having performed the act.  However, they cannot claim immunity for negligent acts. [vii]

The hospital emergency room shall make available materials to collect health and medical information concerning the infant and the parents. The materials shall be offered to the person leaving the newborn infant.  The information may be provided on the discretion of the person surrendering the newborn. [viii]

The cabinet shall make available standardized health, medical, and background information forms to the facilities accepting the abandoned child.  These forms shall be used in gathering voluntary non-identifying information from a person who leaves the infant at the facilities.  Every page of the material shall clearly state that the information requested is designed to facilitate medical care for the infant. The material shall include information on: family services; termination of parental rights; adoption; and importance of medical and health information regarding the infant.  Additionally, the material shall also include a written notification that informs the person that failure to contact the Department for Community Based Services and assert a claim of parental rights within 30 days of the receipt of the material shall result in the commencement of proceedings for involuntary termination of parental rights and placement of the child for adoption.  Based on the available funds, the cabinet shall produce and distribute a media campaign to promote safe placement alternatives for newborn infants.  The campaign shall also contain information regarding adoption procedures, protections offered by the Act, and confidentiality offered to birth parents.[ix]

By relinquishing a newborn infant in accordance with the Act, the newborn infant’s parent waives the right to notification required by subsequent court proceedings. [x]  Additionally, the parent also waives legal standing to make a claim of action against any person who accepts physical custody of the newborn infant. [xi] However, notice may be provided to the parent if a claim of parental rights is made.[xii]

On receiving notice from any emergency medical services provider or hospital staff regarding the abandonment of a newborn infant at their facility, the cabinet shall immediately seek an order for emergency custody of the infant.  Any child protective services investigation or assessment shall not be initiated regarding the abandonment of the infant.  Investigation may be done only in cases where the abandoned child is subject to child physical abuse or child neglect. [xiii]

On releasing the infant from the hospital, the cabinet shall place the child in a foster home approved by the cabinet to provide concurrent planning placement services. “Concurrent planning placement services” means the foster family shall work with the cabinet on reunification with the birth family, if known, and shall seek to adopt the infant if reunification cannot be accomplished. [xiv]

At the temporary removal hearing the court may place temporary custody of the newborn infant with the cabinet.  Such custody order shall remain in effect for a minimum of 30 days.[xv]  During the initial 30 days of custody the cabinet may make efforts to find out if the child in custody is a missing child.  The cabinet shall request assistance from law enforcement officials to investigate through the Missing Child Information Center and other national resources to find out if the child is a missing child.[xvi]  After the 30 day placement period, as soon as practicable, the cabinet shall file a petition in Circuit Court to involuntarily terminate the parental rights of the unknown parents; and authority to place the child for adoption in accordance with KRS Chapter 625.[xvii]

The Circuit Court may hold action for involuntary termination of parental rights in abeyance for a period not exceeding 90 days and immediately remand the case to the District Court if a claim of parental rights is made before issuing the court order.[xviii]  On remanding the case to District Court, an adjudicatory hearing shall be conducted within ten days of assertion of parental rights. [xix]  At the expense of the parent making the claim the District Court may order genetic testing to establish maternity or paternity. [xx]  The cabinet shall conduct a child protective services investigation or assessment and home evaluation to develop recommendations for the District Court. [xxi]

[i] KRS § 405.075(6)

[ii] KRS § 405.075(1),(2)

[iii] KRS § 405.075(5)

[iv] KRS § 405.075(3)

[v] KRS § 216B.190(2)

[vi] KRS § 216B.190(4)

[vii] KRS § 216B.190(2)

[viii] KRS § 216B.190(5)

[ix] KRS § 620.355

[x] KRS § 405.075(4)(a)

[xi] KRS § 405.075(4)(b)

[xii] KRS § 405.075(4)(a)

[xiii] KRS § 620.350(2)(a)

[xiv] KRS § 620.350(2)(b)

[xv] KRS § 620.350(3)

[xvi] KRS § 620.350(4)

[xvii] KRS § 620.350(5)

[xviii] KRS § 620.350(6)

[xix] KRS § 620.350(6)(a)

[xx] KRS § 620.350(6)(b)

[xxi] KRS § 620.350(6)(c)


Inside Kentucky Safe Haven Laws