Skip to content

Immunity for parents, Safe Haven for babies

The South Carolina Department of Social Services announced this month that earlier in April an infant born at Prisma Health Laurens County Hospital had been surrendered to Laurens County Sheriff Deputies and then to DSS under Daniel’s Law, the name for the state’s Safe Haven for Abandoned Babies Act.

DANIEL’S LAW — Officials with the South Carolina Department of Social Services hope that the image of a baby in the safe hands of an adult becomes associated with Daniel’s Law, which allows parents to relinquish a newborn baby up to 60 days without legal repercussion.

Daniel’s Law was established after a newborn baby boy was rescued by workers at a landfill in Allendale County, and nurses in the hospital which cared for the child named him Daniel. By June 2000, state legislators had passed the state’s Safe Haven Act to try and prevent the abandonment of newborn babies in the state.

In the case this month, the 8 pounds, 15 ounce Caucasian baby boy was born on April 9. He was safely surrendered at the Prisma Health Laurens County Hospital, DSS reported.. Laurens County Deputies contacted DSS, and Laurens County DSS personnel took custody of the child, who was immediately placed in foster care until a virtual permanency planning hearing is held on June 17 at 2 p.m.

DSS reported that anyone needing information on the hearing can contact the Laurens County DSS office at 864-833-0100.

This child in Laurens County is the second baby surrendered at a South Carolina hospital so far this year, said Connelly-Anne Ragley, Director of Communications and External Affairs for DSS. The first was surrendered in Anderson County in February.

While the agency has no significant evidence to determine the impact of Daniel’s Law on abuse and neglect rates, Ragley said the Safe Haven Abandonment Act, (State Statute 63-7-40) is important.

“The data we have goes back to 2009, and since that time 45 infants have been surrendered using the Safe Haven Abandoned Babies Act,” Raglan said.

“As a mother myself, I think it is the most selfless act to make sure the child is provided and cared for,” Ragley said. “It’s a monumental decision and for this mother in Laurens County to have the forethought to give her child up, knowing the chal- lenges she would face, I think the mother made a choice for the safety and well-being of that infant and should be commended.”

Also crucial are those who pass on the information about Daniel’s Law to young women who may feel they are in a desperate situation. That typically is conveyed by the law enforcement agencies, the health care staff and by the faith communities, Ragley said. Those who are sharing this as a resource are assisting mothers who have to make tough decisions. The messages and information about Daniel’s Law are frequently shared on social media, through crisis preg- nancy centers, and the message is important because the cases of aban- donment are still too prevalent.

Greenville County had two such cases in recent years. In 2011, a new born boy was found in critical condition in a toilet of what was then the BI-LO Center following a circus performance. The child survived, and the mother was eventually discovered and sentenced to home- bound incarceration and therapy. In 2017, Ragley said another baby was found in a trash can of a Greenville restaurant and that infant had already died.

“That mother obviously did not make a good choice, so we rely on our partnering agencies to let mothers know there is an option,” Ragley said.

When the state first enacted Daniel’s Law, parents or a mother had 30 days in which to surrender her baby directly to designated authorities or caregivers and face no repercussions as long as the child had no injuries. Since that time the law was extended to give 60 days before relinquishing the baby, Ragley said. The person leaving the baby cannot be prosecuted and doesn’t have to reveal his or her identity, and it gives the babies a better chance for long-term protection.

“South Carolina is one of only about five states that gives that much time,” Ragley said. “North Dakota is one year, but most are within a five- day window, and many states give only 72 hours when the parents can give up the child, so we are very generous in that regard.”

For more information on Daniel’s Law, see the DSS website at https://dss.sc.gov/prevention/safe- haven-for-babies/, or go to https://dss.sc.gov and follow the menu bar to the right down to Safe Haven for Babies link.

Leave a Comment