From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Idaho’s Safe Haven Act protects abandoned newborns

November 4, 2022
DHW Director Dave Jeppesen

It can be a scary thing to have a baby, even in the best of situations.

When situations are not the best, it can be downright terrifying.

In my best world, all babies would be born to parents who can care for them. While I would hope that no parent feels the need to give up their child, I know the reality is very different for too many.

The Idaho Safe Haven Act, passed in 2001, offers a safe option for parents who might otherwise abandon their baby. If a parent turns a baby over to a safe haven, the parent can remain anonymous and be sure that their baby will be taken care of and adopted by a family in a permanent home. The parent won’t be prosecuted for neglect or abandonment.

A safe haven is legally allowed to accept a baby if the baby is less than 30 days old and the baby is being taken to the safe haven by at least one of its parents. The parent is not required to give any information to the safe haven, but they may give medical or other details to make sure the baby gets the care he or she needs.

A safe haven is defined under the act as:

  • Hospitals licensed in Idaho.
  • Advanced practice professional nurses, including certified nurse midwives, clinical nurse specialists, nurse practitioners and certified registered nurse anesthetists licensed or registered as listed in chapter 14, title 54, Idaho Code.
  • Physician assistants licensed as listed in chapter 18, title 54, Idaho Code.
  • Medical personnel acting or serving in the capacity as a licensed provider, affiliated with an Idaho EMS agency, including first responders and all levels of emergency medical technicians.
  • A fire station operated by a city, a county, a tribal entity, a fire protection district, or a volunteer fire department if there are personnel on duty.

The safe haven would provide any urgent health and safety needs for the baby and then notify a peace officer. The peace officer would take protective custody of the baby and then deliver the baby to the Department of Health and Welfare. The baby would be placed with a foster family approved for adoption, and Child and Family Services workers would begin the process of finalizing a permanent home for the baby.

In my role as director, I sign 300-400 foster child adoptions a year . A very small number of those come from safe haven placements. Since the law has been enacted, we have had fewer than 35 children come into the department’s care through the Safe Haven Act, or one or two each year. But I’m grateful the biological parents of those children loved their babies enough to make the hardest choice of all, and that we as a state have been compassionate enough to give those children a chance.

If you are a parent who is struggling to provide healthcare for your children, or to put food on your table, help is available.

If you would like to know more about adoptions in Idaho, more information is available by calling the Idaho CareLine at 2-1-1, or 800-926-2588.

I hope you have a safe and healthy weekend.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is dedicated to strengthening the health, safety, and independence of Idahoans. Learn more at healthandwelfare.idaho.gov.