Washington Safe Haven Laws

A parent who transfers a newborn child not older than 72 hours to a qualified person at an appropriate location is not subject to any criminal liability for surrendering the newborn.[i]  According to the Revised Code of Washington § 13.34.360(1), “appropriate location” means the emergency department of a hospital, a fire station or a rural health clinic; and “qualified person” means any person whom the parent believes to be the employee or volunteer of a hospital, fire station or health clinic.  The section more specifically defines “appropriate location” and “qualified person” as:

(a)”Appropriate location” means (i) the emergency department of a hospital licensed under chapter 70.41 RCW during the hours the hospital is in operation; (ii) a fire station during its hours of operation and while fire personnel are present; or (iii) a federally designated rural health clinic during its hours of operation.

(c) “Qualified person” means (i) any person that the parent transferring the newborn reasonably believes is a bona fide employee, volunteer, or medical staff member of the hospital or federally designated rural health clinic and who represents to the parent transferring the newborn that he or she can and will summon appropriate resources to meet the newborn’s immediate needs; or (ii) a firefighter, volunteer, or emergency medical technician at a fire station who represents to the parent transferring the newborn that he or she can and will summon appropriate resources to meet the newborn’s immediate needs.

Any qualified person receiving a newborn:

a)     Must not require the parent to provide any identifying information in order to transfer the newborn. [ii]

b)     Must attempt to protect the anonymity of the parent who transfers the newborn.  The qualified person may provide the parent an opportunity to provide anonymously information relating to the medical history of the parent and the infant.[iii]

c)     must provide referral information about adoption options, counseling, appropriate medical and emotional aftercare services, domestic violence, and legal rights to the parent seeking to transfer the newborn.[iv]

Within 24 hours of receiving a newborn, the qualified person shall ensure that the Child Protective Services is notified that a child has been taken into possession.  Child Protective Services shall assume custody of the newborn within 24 hours of receiving notification. [v]

A federally designated rural health clinic is not required to provide ongoing medical care to a transferred newborn.  It may transfer the newborn to the nearest hospital after meeting the newborn’s immediate needs.  The rural health clinic shall notify Child Protective Services of the transfer of the newborn to the hospital. [vi]

A hospital, federally designated rural health clinic, or fire station; and its employees, volunteers, and medical staff are immune from any criminal or civil liability for accepting or receiving a newborn according to the Safe Haven laws.[vii]

Starting from July 1, 2011, an appropriate location shall post a sign indicating that the location is an appropriate place for the safe and legal transfer of a newborn.  The costs of acquiring and placing signs shall be met by accepting non public funds and donations. [viii]

A parent of a newborn who transfers the newborn to a qualified person at an appropriate location shall not be subject to criminal liability for family nonsupport; and abandonment of a dependent person in the first, second or third degree.[ix]

[i] Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) § 13.34.360(2)

[ii] Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) § 13.34.360(3)(a)

[iii] Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) § 13.34.360(3)(b)

[iv] Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) § 13.34.360(3)(b)

[v] Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) § 13.34.360(3)(c)

[vi] Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) § 13.34.360(3)(d)

[vii] Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) § 13.34.360(3)(e)

[viii] Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) § 13.34.360(4)

[ix] Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) § 26.20.035(2), § 9A.42.060, § 9A.42.070, § 9A.42.080


Inside Washington Safe Haven Laws