We’ve all heard the stories of babies left in dumpsters to die. It’s a depressing and preventable problem that Illinois sought to address with the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act of 2001. The law allows a parent to relinquish custody of her child, within 30 days of birth, to any Safe Haven location in the state. This includes police stations, fire stations, and hospitals.
The entire process is anonymous and completely legal. According to the Chicago Tribune, in the first 10 years of the law, 64 newborns have been left at safe havens.
If a parent wishes to relinquish custody of her newborn for any reason, the process is as simple as dropping the child off at a police or fire station, or a hospital. If she chooses the hospital, she will also receive medical care, if necessary. The relinquishing parent will receive a packet of information, explaining her rights, what rights she’s waiving, and that the child will be put up for adoption after 60 days.
The parent is not required to accept the packet, nor is she required to provide her name or other identifying information.
A parent who relinquishes children at a Safe Haven location is also asked to provide any medical history possible, either at the Safe Haven or by mail. This is completely anonymous and is done solely to ensure proper care and lasting medical records for the child.
What Happens to the Child?
After 60 days, the child is placed for adoption with the Department of Child and Family Services. Paperwork will be filed to terminate any and all of the birth parents’ rights. The child will also be checked against a missing person’s database and a putative father database to ensure that the child was not abducted and to locate a willing father, if possible. Again, since the process is anonymous, only missing children are likely to raise a red flag at this stage. If the check comes up clear, the adoption process proceeds.
What if I Change My Mind?
The process and paperwork to terminate parents’ rights starts at least 60 days after the child is relinquished. If you seek to reverse the process before your rights are terminated, you may file a petition for return of custody. Genetic testing to ensure relation will be done, as will an investigation by DCFS to ensure that the home is suitable for raising a child. If it has been more than 60 days, and your rights have been terminated, the process is generally not reversible.
This post is part of FindLaw’s Legal U series. We are working to help you learn what to do in your city to cope with some of the legal problems, questions, or issues that come up in daily life. Do you have a topic suggestion? Send us a tweet @FindLawConsumer with the hashtag #LegalU and come on back to learn more from future posts in this series.
- Consult a Chicago Family Law Attorney (FindLaw)
- Save Abandoned Babies Foundation (Save Haven Information)
- What is the Status of Open and Closed Adoption in Illinois? (FindLaw’s Chicago Family Law Blog)
- Domestic Violence Resources in the Chicago Area (FindLaw’s Chicago Family Law Blog)