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Utah Safe Haven Laws

In Utah, the parent of a newborn or the parent’s designee may safely relinquish a newborn child approximately not more than 72 hours old at a hospital if the child has not been subject to child abuse or neglect prior to relinquishment.[i]  Utah Code Ann. § 62A-4a-801(1) specifically defines “hospital” as:

(1) “Hospital” means a general acute hospital, as that term is defined in Section 26-21-2, that is:

(a) equipped with an emergency room;

(b) open 24 hours a day, seven days a week; and

(c) employs full-time health care professionals who have emergency medical services training.

A personnel employed by a hospital shall accept a newborn child and may presume the relinquishing person to be the child’s parent or the parent’s designee.[ii]

Upon receiving the newborn, the personnel at the hospital:

a)     may request the relinquishing person to disclose the medical history of the newborn, identifying information of the newborn, and identity of the newborn’s parents.[iii]  The Division shall provide the hospitals with forms and stamped envelopes addressed to the Division to collect medical information of the newborn. [iv]

b)     Shall provide necessary medical care to protect the safety and health of the child. [v]

c)     Shall notify the Division within 24 hours of receiving the newborn. [vi]

d)     Shall prepare a birth certificate if the parentage of the infant is known.  They may prepare a foundling birth certificate if parentage is unknown.  Certificates shall be filed with the Office of Vital Records and Statistics.[vii]

Safe relinquishment of a child according to the safe haven laws shall not be considered as child abandonment and the child shall not be considered as a neglected child.[viii]  If the Division determines that the child was not subject to child abuse or neglect prior to relinquishment, investigation and proceedings relating to child abuse and neglect may not be initiated against the child’s parents.

The Division shall assume care and custody of the child immediately after receiving notice from the hospital.[ix]  If any identifying information relating to the non relinquishing parent of the newborn child has not been provided:[x]

a) the Division shall work with local law enforcement and the Bureau of Criminal Identification within the Department of Public Safety to find out if the newborn child has been identified as a missing child.

b) the division shall immediately place or contract for placement of the newborn child in a potential adoptive home.

c) the Division shall file a petition for termination of parental rights within ten days of receiving  the child.

d) the Division shall direct the Office of Vital Records and Statistics to conduct a search for a birth certificate for the child.  It may also make a request to initiate proceedings to establish Paternity Registry for unmarried biological fathers maintained by the Office of Vital Records and Statistics within the Department of Health and provide notice to each potential father identified on the registry.

e) a hearing on the termination of parental rights shall be scheduled if no person has identified himself/herself as the newborn’s parent within two weeks after notice is complete and established paternity by scientific testing within an expeditious time frame.

Relinquishment of a newborn shall be considered as a ground for termination of parental rights of both the parents if the non relinquishing parent of the newborn has not been identified.[xi]

The Division shall make efforts to provide for expeditious adoption of the newborn child by contracting with a licensed child-placing agency.[xii]  Prior to adoption of the child if the court determines that it is in the best interest of the child to deny the petition for termination of parental rights, the court may deny the petition.[xiii]

Hospitals and hospital employees receiving a newborn are immune from any civil or criminal liability arising from accepting a newborn if the employee complied with the provisions relating to safe abandonment of newborns and gave necessary medical care to protect the newborn.[xiv]

Relinquishing a newborn according to the safe haven laws is an affirmative defense to any potential criminal liability for abandonment or neglect relating to that relinquishment if the person relinquishing a newborn is the newborn’s parent or designee, and the child was not a victim of child abuse or neglect prior to relinquishment.[xv]

[i] Utah Code Ann. § 62A-4a-802(1)(a)

[ii] Utah Code Ann. § 62A-4a-802(2)(a)

[iii] Utah Code Ann. § 62A-4a-802(2)(b)

[iv] Utah Code Ann. § 62A-4a-802(2)(c)

[v] Utah Code Ann. § 62A-4a-802(2)(d)

[vi] Utah Code Ann. § 62A-4a-802(2)(d)

[vii] Utah Code Ann. § 62A-4a-802(2)(d)

[viii] Utah Code Ann. § 62A-4a-802(1)(b), § 76-5-109

[ix] Utah Code Ann. § 62A-4a-802(3)

[x] Utah Code Ann. § 62A-4a-802(5)

[xi] Utah Code Ann. § 62A-4a-802(5)(e)

[xii] Utah Code Ann. § 62A-4a-802(7)

[xiii] Utah Code Ann. § 62A-4a-802(6)

[xiv] Utah Code Ann. § 62A-4a-802(2)(e)

[xv] Utah Code Ann. § 62A-4a-802(8)

Inside Utah Safe Haven Laws