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New Mexico Safe Haven Laws

In New Mexico, the Safe Haven for Infants Act governs laws relating to safe abandonment of infants.[i]  The Act aims to promote the safety of infants and to protect a parent from criminal prosecution for leaving an infant not more than 90 days old at a hospital or health care clinic licensed by the State.[ii]

According to the Act, any person may leave an infant not more than 90 days old with the staff of a hospital without fear of criminal prosecution for abandonment or abuse of the child if the child has not been subject to child abuse or neglect prior to relinquishment.[iii]   Hospitals accepting custody of a newborn according to the Act, or in accordance with procedures developed between the Children, Youth and Families Department and the hospital is deemed to have received consent for medical services provided to the relinquished newborn. [iv]  The infant shall also be deemed eligible and enrolled for Medicaid benefits and services. [v]

Upon receiving an infant, the hospital shall immediately notify the Children, Youth and Families Department that an infant has been left at the hospital. Hospitals may request the surrendering person to disclose the infant’s biological father’s and mother’s name; the infant’s name; and the infant’s medical history.[vi]  Additionally, they may inquire if the infant has a parent who is either a member of an Indian tribe or is eligible for membership in an Indian tribe.  However, the person cannot be compelled to disclose any information.[vii]  The hospital shall transfer all available information regarding the child and the child’s parents to the Department. [viii]

The hospital shall provide the person leaving the infant with information about adoption services; availability of private adoption services; brochures or telephone numbers of agencies that provide adoption services or counseling services; and written information regarding the contact person at the Children, Youth and Families Department, in case the parent decides to reclaim the infant.[ix]

The Children, Youth and Families Department shall be deemed to have emergency custody of an infant abandoned according to the Act. [x]  Upon receiving notification, the Department shall immediately conduct an investigation according to the provisions of the Abuse and Neglect Act.[xi]  After accepting custody, the Department shall make efforts to find out if the child is an Indian child.  If the Department determines the child is Indian, the child’s tribe shall be notified.  Pre-adoptive and adoptive placement of the Indian child shall be in accordance with the provisions of Section 32A-5-5 NMSA 1978 (dealing with Indian child placement preferences). [xii]

The Department shall make efforts to make the public aware of the protections offered by the Act.  It shall develop written information about the Act and distribute it to different hospitals. [xiii]  Hospitals in conjunction with the Children, Youth and Families Department shall develop procedures which shall guide the hospital staff in accepting and providing necessary medical services to the infant and, if necessary, to the person leaving the infant at the hospital.[xiv]

A person established as a parent of the newborn shall have standing to participate in all proceedings regarding the child conducted in accordance with the provisions of Abuse and Neglect Act. [xv]  If a person not previously established as a parent seeks reunification with an infant, DNA test shall be conducted to determine parentage.  If the test results indicate parentage of the infant, that person shall have standing to participate in proceedings regarding the infant.[xvi]

A hospital and its staff is immune from criminal and civil liability for accepting an infant in accordance with the provisions of the Act.  However, they cannot claim immunity for negligent medical care or treatment of the infant.[xvii]

[i] N.M. Stat. Ann. § 24-22-1

[ii] N.M. Stat. Ann. § 24-22-1.1

[iii] N.M. Stat. Ann. § 24-22-3(A)

[iv] N.M. Stat. Ann. § 24-22-3(C)

[v] N.M. Stat. Ann. § 24-22-5(E)

[vi] N.M. Stat. Ann. § 24-22-3(B)

[vii] N.M. Stat. Ann. § 24-22-4(D)

[viii] N.M. Stat. Ann. § 24-22-4(E)

[ix] N.M. Stat. Ann. § 24-22-4(C)

[x] N.M. Stat. Ann. § 24-22-5(A)

[xi] N.M. Stat. Ann. § 24-22-5(B)

[xii] N.M. Stat. Ann. § 24-22-5(C)

[xiii] N.M. Stat. Ann. § 24-22-5(D)

[xiv] N.M. Stat. Ann. § 24-22-4(B)

[xv] N.M. Stat. Ann. § 24-22-7(A)

[xvi] N.M. Stat. Ann. § 24-22-7(B)

[xvii] N.M. Stat. Ann. § 24-22-8

Inside New Mexico Safe Haven Laws