Pennsylvania Safe Haven Laws

The Newborn Protection Act governs laws relating to abandonment of newborns in the state of Pennsylvania.[i]  In Pennsylvania, a health care provider at a hospital shall take into protective custody a newborn not older than 28 days surrendered by its parents. [ii]  The term “health care provider” shall include administrative, managerial and security personnel employed by a hospital.[iii]  Upon receiving the newborn, the health care provider shall arrange for the medical examination of the newborn, and perform acts necessary to protect the safety and health of the child. [iv]

Immediately after receiving the newborn, the health care provider shall make a phone call and notify the county agency and the local municipal police department. [v]   In areas where there is no municipal police jurisdiction, the Pennsylvania State Police shall be notified.[vi]   Within 48 hours of making the oral report, a written report shall be submitted to the county agency and local municipal police department or the Pennsylvania State Police.[vii]

Failure to report acceptance of newborns is considered to be an offense.  A health care provider who intentionally or knowingly fails to report the acceptance of a newborn commits a summary offense. [viii]   A second or subsequent failure to report such acceptance is considered to be a misdemeanor of the third degree. [ix]

While surrendering the newborn, the parent may provide the health care provider with information relating to the newborn’s medical history, and also identifying information relating to the newborn.[x]

Hospitals must assure that its officers, health care providers and employees are familiar with the provisions of the Act.[xi]  Additionally, hospitals have the duty to insure that the appropriate officers, health care providers and employees, receive educational materials provided by the Department of Public Welfare of the Commonwealth.[xii]  Information concerning the safe abandonment of newborns, provisions relating to newborn protection and regulations adopted by the department shall be made part of the training at each hospital.[xiii]  Each hospital shall adopt a written policy that relate to newborn protection. [xiv]

The Department of Public Welfare of the Commonwealth is responsible for providing educative materials that relate to procedures relating to accepting custody of a newborn.  The duties of the Department include: [xv]

a)     Providing educational materials for use by hospitals, health care providers and employees at hospitals.  These materials contain information that relate to safe abandonment of newborns, taking child into protective custody and information regarding child protective services that relate to newborn protection.

b)     Circulating regulations necessary to implement the Act, and other provisions that relate to newborns.

c)      Providing health care providers and hospitals with an informational pamphlet regarding the Act, and provisions that relate to newborn protection.  Such pamphlets may be distributed to the public by hospital authorities.

d)     Complying with provisions regarding infant abandonment in sections 6365 (relating to services for prevention, investigation and treatment of child abuse) and 6383 (relating to education and training).

e)     Submitting an annual report to the General Assembly regarding the number of newborns accepted in accordance with the Act and their disposition.

Hospitals or health care providers at a hospital shall not be subject to any civil or criminal penalty for complying with the provisions of the Act.  However, they are not immune from liability if they fail to report acceptance of a newborn.[xvi]

A newborn’s parent shall not be criminally liable under any provision of Title 18 (relating to crimes and offenses) if: a) the parent surrenders the newborn according to the Act, and b) the newborn was not subject to child abuse or neglect prior to relinquishment.[xvii]    

[i] 23 Pa.C.S. § 6501

[ii] 23 Pa.C.S. § 6504(a)

[iii] 23 Pa.C.S. § 6502

[iv] 23 Pa.C.S. § 6501

[v] 23 Pa.C.S. § 6504(a), 23 Pa.C.S. § 6505

[vi] 23 Pa.C.S. § 6504(a), 23 Pa.C.S. § 6505

[vii] 23 Pa.C.S. § 6505

[viii] 23 Pa.C.S. § 6506

[ix] 23 Pa.C.S. § 6506

[x] 23 Pa.C.S. § 6504(b)

[xi] 23 Pa.C.S. § 6508

[xii] 23 Pa.C.S. § 6508

[xiii] 23 Pa.C.S. § 6508

[xiv] 23 Pa.C.S. § 6508

[xv] 23 Pa.C.S. § 6509

[xvi] 23 Pa.C.S. § 6507

[xvii] 23 Pa.C.S. § 6503


Inside Pennsylvania Safe Haven Laws