The proof is in the pudding and on Wednesday, a young east coast Florida couple was cradling the proof that Safe Haven works.
The young couple, identified only as Sarah and Don, cuddled their cherubic 3-month-old adopted son and told the Polk Safe Haven Coalition, a blend of some 40 agencies linked through the efforts of Polk County Commissioner George Lindsey, what a blessing he was.
“If we were able to speak with our baby’s birth mother, we’d want to thank her for taking care of herself so she’d have a healthy baby,” the mother said. “We are so grateful she was aware of the Safe Haven law and that in the end, she chose to place this baby and give him a life and complete our family.”
The couple adopted the baby some four days after it had been surrendered by its mother at a fire station which shielded the mother from prosecution for child abandonment under the 2000 Safe Haven law. The couple had earlier adopted a child through normal channel and through a local charity. Because they were already on file and had asked for a second child through the agency, they were called when the baby boy was released following a check up at a local hospital.
The Safe Haven law allows an unharmed newborn less than a week old to be placed with staff at a hospital, EMS station or fire house. The baby can be placed anonymously, with no questions asked.
In Polk County, two infants have been left at fire stations in the last five years, one in Lake Wales and one in Lakeland. Statewide, some 200 infants have been placed in Safe Havens since the law was passed and the Safe Haven for Newborns organization was founded.
Almost six months ago, following a series of events locally that resulted in an infant’s death, Lindsey wondered what could have been done to help a young mother in crisis. He knew there were agencies in Polk County providing services to mothers-to-be and drew many of them together, forming the coalition.
The coalition is an avenue to reach more people, not just the pregnant mother, according to Lindsey.
“Our message to the community is don’t wait until the baby is born,” Lindsey said, “We’re here to help during all stages of pregnancy. This information isn’t just for pregnant women. It’s for family, friends, neighbors, coaches or whoever may know of someone who is hiding a pregnancy and doesn’t know where to turn.
“We never want another woman to face a pregnancy alone,” he continued. “We need the community’s help sharing the information throughout the county so that if someone finds themselves in such a situation, they know immediately where to go for help.”
He added that the goal is to reach young women early in their pregnancies to offset or forestall crises with counseling and other support services.
Safe Haven also provides a multilingual help line staffed 24/7 with counselors to help pregnant women in need of guidance or assistance. These counselors have been provided detailed information they can relay to the caller so the proper resource is made available to meet the individual’s needs. The Safe Haven Hotline number is 877-757-BABY. (2229)
Safe Haven’s Florida founder, Nick Silverio, lauded the Polk County School Board for being one of only two school districts in the state to make Safe Haven information available to students through fliers and a video presentation.
“We’re dedicated to reaching a pregnant girl before it reaches the crisis stage,” Silverio told the coalition. “We want all these precious ones to have a future, like he will have,” he said indicating the sleeping baby in his adoptive mother’s arms.
The coalition plans to meet regularly to provide more comprehensive assistance to pregnant women and to keep current on community and agency situations.