After 29th “Safe Haven Baby” State Senator Renews Calls to Expand Law

DES MOINES, Iowa --  Three weeks after a baby girl was surrendered under Iowa’s “safe haven” law, another baby has been handed over to the state. That brings the total of Iowa’s Safe Haven babies to 29, and renews calls to expand the law which allows mothers in crisis to give up their child.

The law protects parents from prosecution for abandonment for leaving the baby at a hospital in their first 14 days of life.

The bill was enacted in 2002 after a high-profile case where a teenage mother killed her newborn. 15 years later the Iowa legislature is getting close to expanding them.

A bill that would expanded Iowa's safe haven laws passed unanimously through the senate but didn't make it in time to get through funnel week.

“What we wanted to do and what we did in the senate, which passed unanimously, was we expanded the time frame from 14 days to 30 days” said Republican State Senator Jake Chapman.

Senator Chapman is one of the lawmakers leading the charge on an update. In addition to expanding the time a mother must make the decision to 30 days, it would also allow more ways for mothers in crisis to give up their child.

“Currently, a parent can only take that child to a healthcare facility or to a hospital. Under the law we will have protected, confidential information when a parent calls in to 911 and can relinquish that child simply by calling 911 and have first responders come to their home” said Chapman.

Senator Chapman is hopeful that this bill will move quickly through both houses next session despite the scrutiny on the DHS foster care system.

“I'm confident through the legislature and through DHS, with the new change at DHS, some of those issues can be resolved through government oversight. We have some tremendous foster care parents throughout the state that are willing to sacrifice and do all the can do to help children” said Chapman.

DHS Spokeswomen Amy McCoy says in these cases there's a 30-day period between the surrender date and a formal hearing for the parent to surrender their rights to the child.

A parent who was in crisis at the time but is now more stable can get the child back during that hearing.