What is a Safe Haven?
It's a place where a new mom desperate to hide an unwanted baby can bring her newborn instead of abandoning the infant in an unsafe place, where the baby may die.
The Tennessee Safe Haven Law (TCA 68-11- 255), enacted on July 1, 2001, allows mothers of newborns to surrender unharmed babies within two (2) weeks of birth, anonymously and without fear of prosecution.
Newborns may be surrendered to staff at:
- Birthing Centers
- Community Health Clinics (Health Departments)
- Outpatient, Walk-in Clinics
- EMS Facilities (part of 2009 amendment)
- 24 Hour Fire Stations (2009 amendment)
- 24 Hour Law Enforcement Facilities (2009 amendment)
Key Points of the Law
- Child must be unharmed
- Baby must be given to a staff member of the facility
- Mother must be present
- Anonymously relinquished
- Mother receives immunity from prosecution
- Parental rights are terminated in no less than 90 days
What happens to the surrendered newborn?
The newborn will be examined by a doctor and admitted to the hospital nursery. The baby will be released as soon as medical clearance is given and an appropriate home is found through the Department of Children’s Services, usually within 72 hours of admittance. DCS will place the baby with a permanent adoptive family.
Can someone other than the mother surrender the newborn?
No. The mother must leave the baby voluntarily. It must be known that this was her decision and she was not pressured or forced to give up her baby. No one has to know that she brought her newborn to the facility, but she must be the person to bring her newborn to the facility.
The State Helpline
The mother can call the Helpline at 866-699-SAFE and have her options and requirements explained to her during her pregnancy, or after the birth of her child. All calls are confidential and anonymous. There are no caller i.d. systems and calls are not recorded. It is answered by Emergency Medical Technicians.