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Massachusetts Safe Haven Laws

A parent may voluntarily abandon a newborn not older than seven days to an appropriate person at a hospital, police department or manned fire station.  Such facilities accepting custody of the newborn are known as designated facility.[i]

Upon receiving a newborn infant, the designated facility shall immediately notify the Department of the placement of the newborn infant at the facility.  On receiving such notice, the Department shall take immediate custody of the newborn and place it into foster care.  The Department shall also initiate all actions authorized by law to achieve the safety and permanent placement of the newborn infant in a manner consistent with the best interests of the child. [ii]

The person at a designated facility accepting the newborn shall make reasonable efforts to gather from the surrendering parent information such as: [iii]

a)     name of the newborn;

b)     name and address of the surrendering parent;

c)     birth place of the newborn;

d)     medical history of the newborn and the newborn’s family; and

e)     any other information that might assist the Department or the court in current or future determinations of the best interests of the child.  However, the parent cannot be compelled to disclose any information.

Abandonment of the newborn shall not by itself constitute child abuse or neglect; or an automatic termination of parental rights or an abrogation of the parental rights or responsibilities.  However, the Department may initiate petition to terminate parental rights based on the abandonment of the newborn.  If the designated facility accepting the newborn finds that the child was subject to child abuse or neglect, it shall have a duty to report the abuse/neglect. [iv]

The Department in conjunction with other Departments and agencies of the commonwealth and the Massachusetts Hospital Association shall develop and implement public information programs.  Programs may include educational and informational materials in print, audio video, electronic and other media, public service announcements and advertisements and the establishment of a toll-free hotline.  Such public information programs shall provide information regarding Safe Haven laws; teen pregnancy prevention programs and adoption.  The Department shall use funds received from the United States Department of Health and Human Services to implement the program.  The Department shall also prepare a report regarding the effectiveness of the Safe Haven laws. [v]

[i] ALM GL ch. 119, § 391/2

[ii] ALM GL ch. 119, § 391/2

[iii] ALM GL ch. 119, § 391/2

[iv] ALM GL ch. 119, § 391/2

[v] ALM GL ch. 119, § 391/2

Inside Massachusetts Safe Haven Laws