North Carolina Safe Haven Laws

In North Carolina, any adult; health care provider who is on duty or at a hospital, local or district health department, or a nonprofit community health center; law enforcement officer who is on duty or at a police station or sheriff’s department; social services worker who is on duty or at a local Department of Social Services; or certified emergency medical service worker who is on duty or at a fire or emergency medical services station shall without a court order, take into temporary custody an infant not older than seven days if it is voluntarily delivered to such facility by its parent with an intent not to return for the child.[i]  If a worker of the Department Of Social Services takes a child into temporary custody, the worker may arrange for the placement, care, supervision, and transportation of the child.[ii]

Any adult; or an individual at an authorized facility taking temporary custody of the infant shall perform acts necessary to protect the physical health and safety of the infant.  The individual shall also notify the Department of Social Services or a local law enforcement agency immediately.  Additionally, the individual must make an effort to get the identifying information of the infant’s parents and the medical history of the parent and the infant.  However, the parent must not be compelled to disclose the requested information.  The individual must inform the parent that the parent is not required to provide the information.[iii]

Any adult or individual taking temporary custody of a child in good faith is immune from any civil or criminal liability for any acts or omissions in taking custody of the child that might otherwise be incurred or imposed.  However, they are not immune from action for negligent acts, or willful misconduct.[iv]

A person who takes custody of a juvenile without a court order under G.S. 7B-500 (dealing with taking temporary custody of a juvenile) shall:[v]

a)     Notify the juvenile’s parent, guardian, custodian, or caretaker that the juvenile has been taken into temporary custody.  They must also be informed of their right to be present with the juvenile until a determination is made as to the need for non-secure custody.  However, failure to notify the parent that the juvenile is in custody shall not be grounds for release of the juvenile.

b)     Release the juvenile to the juvenile’s parent, guardian, custodian, or caretaker if the person having the juvenile in temporary custody decides that continued custody is unnecessary.

c)     The individual having custody shall communicate with the director of the Department of Social Services.  The director shall consider prehearing diversion.  If the director decides to file a petition, he/she shall contact the judge or person delegated authority to decide if there is a need for continued custody.

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-101 defines “Juvenile” as a person who has not reached the person’s eighteenth birthday and is not married, emancipated, or a member of the armed forces of the United States.

A juvenile may not be held in temporary custody for more than 12 hours by any individual.  If any of the 12 hours falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, the juvenile may be held in custody for not more than 24 hours.  In cases where a petition or motion for review has been filed by the director of the Department Of Social Services, and an order for nonsecure custody has been entered by the court, the juvenile may be held in temporary custody for more than 12 hours. [vi]

The court may terminate parental rights if the parent has voluntarily abandoned an infant for at least 60 consecutive days immediately preceding the filing of the petition or motion for termination of parental rights.[vii]

A parent who abandons its newborn according to the safe haven laws shall not be prosecuted for infant abandonment.[viii]

[i] N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-500(b), 7B-500(d)

[ii] N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-500(a)

[iii] N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-500(c), 7B-500(d)

[iv] N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-500(e)

[v] N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-501

[vi] N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-501

[vii] N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1111

[viii] N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-322.3


Inside North Carolina Safe Haven Laws