How to Surrender an Infant Under Safe Haven Laws

In all 50 United States and Puerto Rico, there are safe haven laws designed for a parent to surrender a newborn child to designated 'safe havens'. Designed to protect infants from neglect or abuse, most states do not ask questions about why you are turning over custody of the child. If you or someone you know is pregnant and do not feel that the child can be raised safely under the care of either parent, the infant can be usually relinquished without risk of prosecution.


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    Research the safe haven laws in your state. The safe haven law is by state, not run by federal legislation. Find out what your rights are with regards to legal immunity, where and who you can turn over the infant, and the age limit. Most states require the infant be under 72 hours old, whereas some states have up to one month for the parent to decide (see "Tips"). Learn what the specific laws are for your jurisdiction.[1]
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    Come up with a plan. If you can, discuss this with another person whose opinion you trust, whether it be the other parent, your family, friends, a doctor, or a religious leader. Decide where you will give birth and where you will hand over the infant, and whether you need someone to accompany you for support. You may even wish to consider someone else acting as your agent rather than handing over the baby yourself.
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    Give birth to the infant. Keep the infant safe, warm, and nourished. Wrap him or her in a blanket or even a sweatshirt. Feed and change the baby's diapers when needed. Protect the baby from abuse. If you or the infant are under threat, call the police immediately.
  4. Image titled Safe Surrender
    Surrender the infant within the legal time frame provided under the relevant legislation for your state. Bring the baby to the pre-determined safe haven, and ask an official if they are the proper person to receive an infant for emergency custody under the safe haven law.
    • The most frequent safe havens are fire stations and emergency rooms of hospitals, but do check your state's requirements so you don't run into trouble.
    • You may be asked brief medical questions or be subject to a short physical examination, depending on your jurisdiction's laws.
  5. Image titled Hug 7
    Ask for support from loved ones. Giving your infant up is not an easy decision, and sometimes the emotions can be overwhelming. Do not be afraid to ask for support – these emotions are common and bottling them up can be dangerous.


  • To date, approximately 49 States and Puerto Rico have enacted safe haven legislation. The focus of these laws is protecting newborns. In approximately 13 States, infants who are 72 hours old or younger may be relinquished to a designated safe haven. Approximately 16 States and Puerto Rico accept infants up to 1 month old. Other States specify varying age limits in their statutes.[2]


  • Do not drop off the child at the door of the safe haven and leave. You must physically hand over the child to the proper authority. If you are dropping off a child at a church where this is permitted, you must be certain an appropriate person is present to receive the child.
  • Do not abuse or neglect the infant. If there are any signs of abuse or neglect when you hand over the infant, you will be potentially liable for prosecution.

Things You'll Need

  • Diapers
  • Warm clothing
  • Carry basket or similar for the baby
  • Medical information

Sources and Citations

  1. For example, see the US Department of Health and Human Services, Infant Safe Haven Laws: Summary of State Laws
  2. US Department of Health and Human Services, Infant Safe Haven Laws: Summary of State Laws

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