In Michigan, the “Safe Delivery of Newborns Law” governs safe abandonment of newborns.[i] The law permits parent to surrender a newborn not more than 72 hours old to an emergency medical service provider with intent not to return for the child.[ii] “Emergency service provider” means an employee on duty at a fire department, hospital, or police station. MCL § 712.1(f) more specifically states:
“Emergency service provider” means a uniformed or otherwise identified employee or contractor of a fire department, hospital, or police station when that individual is inside the premises and on duty. Emergency service provider also includes a paramedic or an emergency medical technician when either of those individuals is responding to a 9-1-1 emergency call.
The emergency service provider shall immediately accept the newborn and take it into temporary protective custody without a court order. After that the emergency service provider shall:
a) take action necessary to protect the physical health and safety of the child. [iii]
b) inform the parent that by surrendering the child the parent is releasing the child to a child placing agency to be placed for adoption. [iv]
c) inform the surrendering parent that they may reclaim the child by filing a petition for custody within 28 days of relinquishing the child. [v]
d) provide the parent with written material produced or approved by the Department of Human Services which includes information regarding regaining custody, and termination of parental rights.[vi]
e) after providing the parent with the written material, the emergency service provider shall make a reasonable attempt to encourage the parent to provide any relevant family or medical information. [vii]
f) request the parent to disclose his/her identity, and inform the parent that their information will be kept confidential. [viii]
g) request the parent to disclose the name of the non surrendering parent because the State is required to make a reasonable attempt to identify the other parent before they place the child for adoption. [ix]
h) inform the parent that the child placing agency taking temporary protective custody of the newborn can provide confidential services to the parent. [x]
i) request the parent to sign a release for the newborn that may be used at the parental rights termination hearing. [xi]
An emergency service provider other than a hospital accepting temporary custody of the newborn shall transfer the newborn to a hospital. A hospital that takes a newborn into temporary protective custody shall have the newborn examined by a physician. [xii] After examination, if the physician determines that the relinquished child is not a 72 day old or younger newborn; or if the physician suspects that the child has been subject to child abuse or child neglect, the physician shall immediately report the matter to the Department. Alternatively, if the physician determines that the relinquished child is a newborn and is not a victim of child abuse or neglect, the hospital shall notify a child placing agency that it has taken a newborn into temporary protective custody. [xiii]
Upon receiving notice from the hospital, the child placing agency shall:[xiv]
a) immediately assume care, control and temporary protective custody of the newborn.
b) meet the newborn’s parent, if known.
c) try to find out if the child is a missing child.
d) within 28 days of receiving notice from hospital make reasonable efforts to identify, locate and provide the non surrendering parent a notice of surrender of the newborn. If the non surrendering parent cannot be located, the child placing agency shall provide notice by publication in a newspaper of general circulation in the county where the newborn was surrendered.
e) make temporary placement of the newborn with a prospective adoptive parent who has an approved placement assistance. In cases where a petition for custody is filed, the child placing agency shall place the child with a licensed foster parent.
The court has jurisdiction over a child surrendered to an emergency service provider and the court may appoint a lawyer-guardian ad litem to represent a newborn in proceedings initiated under the Safe Haven laws. [xv] All the proceedings and records concerning the abandoned baby shall remain confidential and closed to the public. An individual who discloses such confidential information without a court order or specific authorization under Federal or State law is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 93 days or a fine of not more than $100.00, or both. Additionally, the individual is civilly liable for damages proximately caused by disclosure of that information. [xvi]
A surrendering parent may reclaim custody of the newborn by filing a petition with the court of custody of the newborn. The petition may be filed within 28 days of surrendering the newborn. A non surrendering parent may claim custody of the newborn by filing a petition in the court having custody of the newborn within 28 days after the publication of surrender of newborn. [xvii] After that, the court shall order blood tissue typing or DNA identification profiling to determine the maternity/paternity of the petitioner. The costs for such tests shall be borne by the petitioner. If the test results show that the petitioner cannot be the parent of the newborn, the court shall dismiss the petition.[xviii]
Based upon the court’s findings the court may issue an order either granting to the petitioner physical and legal custody of the child; or terminating the parental rights and placing the child with a child placing agency in the best interests of the child.[xix]
If a timely petition for custody is not filed by either parent, the child placing agency with authority to place the newborn shall immediately file a petition with the court to determine whether the release shall be accepted and whether the court shall enter an order terminating the rights of the surrendering parent. The court shall schedule a hearing on the petition from the child placing agency within 14 days of receipt of the petition. Based on the court’s finding it shall issue an appropriate order. [xx]
The Department of Community Health along with the Department of Human Services shall establish a safe delivery program in which they shall publish and distribute to the public a pamphlet prominently displaying a toll-free telephone number; and providing information regarding the safe relinquishment of newborn. By making a call to the toll-free number one can access information regarding: prenatal care and delivery of a newborn; names of health agencies that can assist in obtaining services and supports that provide for the pregnancy-related health of the mother and the health of the baby; adoption options and the name and telephone number of child placing agency that can assist a parent or expecting parent in obtaining adoption services; and legal and procedural requirements related to the voluntary surrender of a child.[xxi]
A hospital, fire department, police station, child placing agency, and their agents and employees are immune from any civil action for damages for an act or omission in accepting or transferring a newborn. However, they are not immune from liability for acts or omissions due to willful misconduct or gross negligence.[xxii]
[i] MCL § 712.1(1)
[ii] MCL § 712.3(1)
[iii] MCL § 712.3(1)
[iv] MCL § 712.3(1)
[v] MCL § 712.3(1)
[vi] MCL § 712.3(1)
[vii] MCL § 712.3(2)
[viii] MCL § 712.3(2)
[ix] MCL § 712.3(2)
[x] MCL § 712.3(2)
[xi] MCL § 712.3(2)
[xii] MCL § 712.5
[xiii] MCL § 712.5
[xiv] MCL § 712.7
[xv] MCL § 712.2
[xvi] MCL § 712.2a
[xvii] MCL § 712.10
[xviii] MCL § 712.11
[xix] MCL § 712.15
[xx] MCL § 712.17
[xxi] MCL § 712.20
[xxii] MCL § 712.2(4)