Ohio Safe Haven Laws

In Ohio, a peace officer employed by a law enforcement agency; a hospital employee; or an emergency medical service worker while acting in an official capacity may take possession of child not older than 30 days if the child is voluntarily surrendered by its parent with intent not to return for the child.[i]   “Emergency medical service worker” means a first responder, emergency medical technician-basic, emergency medical technician-intermediate, or paramedic.[ii]  Parents have the right to remain anonymous after delivering the child.[iii]  However, the right is not available if the child is in a harmed condition while delivering it; or if the entity accepting the child suspects that the child is a victim of child abuse or neglect.  In such cases the parent surrendering the child may be subject to arrest.[iv]

A law enforcement agency, hospital, or emergency medical service organization taking possession of a child shall:[v]

a)     perform acts necessary to protect health or safety of the child.

b)     notify the Public Children Services Agency of the county in which the agency, hospital, or organization is located that the child has been taken into possession.

c)     try to make available to the parent forms designed to gather information regarding the medical history of the child and the child’s parents.  The parent may not be compelled to fill the forms.[vi]  The parent may voluntarily deliver the fully or partially completed forms while delivering the child or at a later time. [vii]

d)     make available to the parent written materials that describe services available to assist parents and newborns.  However, parents may decline to accept informational materials.[viii]

e)     attempt to identify and keep track of the person who delivered the child if the surrendered child has suffered a physical or mental wound, injury, disability, or condition of a nature that reasonably indicates abuse or neglect of the child.

An emergency medical service worker who takes possession of the child shall perform any medical service the worker is authorized to perform, and that is necessary to protect the physical health or safety of the child.[ix]

Except in cases where the abandoned child is in a harmed condition, or is a victim of child abuse or neglect, the person or entity accepting custody of an abandoned child shall not:[x]

a)     force the surrendering parent to reveal the identity of the child’s parents.

b)     follow the parent after the parent leaves the place at which the child was delivered.

c)     coerce or force the parent not to desert the child;

d)     compel the parent to fill medical information forms

e)     force the parent to accept the materials made available to them.

Upon receiving notice that an emergency medical service organization, a law enforcement agency, or hospital has taken possession of a child, a Public Children Services Agency shall:[xi]

a)     accept and take temporary custody of the child.

b)     consider the child to be in need of public care and protective services. 

c)     provide temporary emergency care for the child, without agreement or commitment.

d)     make an investigation about the child.

e)     file a motion requesting the court to grant temporary custody of the child to the agency or to a private child placing agency.  The motion shall be filed with the juvenile court of the county in which the agency is located.

f)       Provide any care for the child that the Public Children Services Agency considers to be in the best interest of the child.  The agency may place the child in shelter care, if such placement is required and is in the child’s best interests.

g)     provide any care and perform any duties required to be performed by the Public Children Services Agencies.

h)     prepare and keep written records relating to the investigation of the child; care and treatment given to the child; and any other records required by the Department of Job And Family Services.

A Public Children Services Agency or Private Child Placing Agency that receives temporary custody of an abandoned child shall prepare case plans, conduct investigations, conduct periodic administrative reviews of case plans, and provide services for the deserted child.  It shall treat the deserted child as a child adjudicated as a neglected child and shall follow procedures relating to a neglected child. [xii]

According to the state laws, any parent surrendering his/her child according to the Safe Haven laws does not commit a criminal offense.  The parent shall not be subject to criminal prosecution in the State for relinquishing the child.[xiii]  However, a person who delivers or attempts to deliver a child who has suffered any physical or mental wound, injury, disability, or condition of a nature that reasonably indicates abuse or neglect of the child is not immune from civil or criminal liability for abuse or neglect.[xiv]

A person or governmental entity taking possession or emergency temporary custody of a child; or providing temporary emergency care for a child in good faith is immune from any civil or criminal liability that might otherwise be incurred or imposed as a result of these actions. The immunity does not apply for acts done in bad faith or with malicious purpose.[xv]  However, the immunity guaranteed do not create a new cause of action or substantive legal right against a person or governmental entity and do not affect any immunities from civil liability or defenses established by another section of law or available at common law to which a person or governmental entity may be entitled under circumstances not covered by the Safe Haven laws.[xvi]

If a person indicates to the court that he/she is the parent of the child adjudicated as a deserted child, and seeks to be reunited with the child, the court that adjudicated the child shall require the person to submit to a DNA test.  Expenses for the test shall be borne by the person making the claim.   The test shall help in verifying if the person making the claim is the child’s parent. [xvii]

The director of Job and Family Services shall distribute the medical information forms and written materials to entities permitted to receive a deserted child; Public Children Services Agencies; and to other public or private agencies.  The Department   shall also develop an educational plan, in collaboration with the Ohio Family and Children First Cabinet Council, to propagate the provisions of the Safe Haven laws among at-risk populations who are most likely to voluntarily deliver a child.  The Department may use surplus moneys from the putative father registry fund for costs related to the distribution of forms and materials. [xviii]

[i] ORC Ann. 2151.3516

[ii] ORC Ann. 2151.3515(C)

[iii] ORC Ann. 2151.3524(A)

[iv] ORC Ann. 2151.3524(B)

[v] ORC Ann. 2151.3517(A)

[vi] ORC Ann. 2151.3525

[vii] ORC Ann. 2151.3525

[viii] ORC Ann. 2151.3526

[ix] ORC Ann. 2151.3517(B)

[x] ORC Ann. 2151.3527

[xi] ORC Ann. 2151.3518

[xii] ORC Ann. 2151.3522

[xiii] ORC Ann. 2151.3523(A)

[xiv] ORC Ann. 2151.3523(B)

[xv] ORC Ann. 2151.3523(C), (D)

[xvi] ORC Ann. 2151.3523(E)

[xvii] ORC Ann. 2151.3528

[xviii] ORC Ann. 2151.3530


Inside Ohio Safe Haven Laws