Safe haven law protects mom who left baby in manger scene

26 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Baby abandoned at New York City nativity scene. Does this happen often?.

When a custodian at a church in the Richmond Hill neighborhood of Queens, N.Y. returned from lunch on Monday, he heard cries and discovered a surprising sight: a newborn baby, with umbilical cord still attached, resting in the manger at the church’s nativity scene.The mother of a baby who was left this week in a manger inside a Roman Catholic church in New York was found and will not face criminal prosecution, the county district attorney said late on Wednesday. The baby, a boy who weighed about five pounds, was taken to a local hospital by emergency crews and appeared to be in good health, Christopher Heanue, pastor of the Holy Child of Jesus Church wrote on the church’s Facebook page.

Under New York state law, a parent may abandon a newborn anonymously at certain designated safe haven locations, as long as the baby is handed over to an appropriate person. “The beautiful thing is that this woman found in this church — which is supposed to be a home for those in need — this home for her child,” Father Heanue said. The discovery of this baby highlights the problem of abandoned babies in states across the country, with many lawmakers and activists attempting to grapple with how best to ensure the infants are not injured. But about 1,400 other infants have been abandoned illegally, with about two-thirds of them found dead, according to the group, Save the Abandoned Babies Foundation. He walked to the front of the nave and found the child lying in the wood-frame nativity scene, which had been newly assembled but was still empty of all the animals and statues. Under the NY Abandoned Infant Protection Act, which was originally adopted in 2000 in a wave of similar laws from 45 states, parents could originally abandon unwanted babies of up to five days old.

Rocio Fidalgo, a spokeswoman for the Diocese of Brooklyn, said that from time to time, people leave unwanted children at its churches, though she declined to say how often this happened. In Indiana, a statewide effort to install portable incubators where parents can deposit their babies at locations around the state was nixed this year by a state commission because of concerns about the cost and legal issues around using the boxes. The “baby boxes” would expand the state’s safe haven law, allowing additional anonymity because parents could deposit the infants without speaking to anyone. Parish officials said they had received well over a dozen messages in calls and emails from people around the country expressing interest in adopting the baby.

Richmond Hill has a predominantly immigrant population, with large numbers of residents from the Caribbean and South Asia, as well as sizable numbers from Latin America and elsewhere. Paul Cerni, the parish secretary, said that the shifts in the congregation’s demographics have vaguely mirrored those in the broader community, with a growing number of immigrants from predominantly Catholic countries of Latin America replacing those of Western European descent. “We should pray the baby gets a proper home,” said Heanue, who arrived at the parish in February and is in charge of its day-to-day administration. But baby boxes have proved controversial, especially in Europe, with a United Nations committee condemning them in 2012 as violating children’s rights to identify and maintain a personal relationship with their parents.

Instead, they argued, countries should focus on providing resources about family planning, easy access to contraception and social support, which might prevent parents from resorting to the drastic solution of abandoning their unwanted children. “Baby boxes do not operate in the best interest of the child or the mother,” Maria Herczog, a sociologist and member of the UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child told the Monitor in 2012. “Just leave your baby, these boxes seem to say. But advocates, who range from an Indiana firefighter (a pro-life activist) to other human rights groups, argue that baby boxes are a last defense for women who feel they have no other option., “These women are, in general, victims of a lack of adequate social networks and state public services.

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