Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Safe Haven Law Tramples Fathers’ Rights

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Safe Haven Law Tramples Fathers’ Rights
Fathers Should be Given Custody of Safe Haven Babies

By Jeffery M. Leving

A day doesn’t go by that you won’t find a story about a baby that has been abandoned by their mother. Oftentimes, those children come from broken families or unmarried mothers who have broken ties with the father.

Like many states, Illinois has a law called “Safe Haven (The Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act enacted in 2001) which permits mothers to abandon any child unharmed within seven days of the child’s birth at a “safe haven” location including hospitals, emergency medical facilities, fire stations, and police stations that have staff present.

All designated safe havens must have a safe haven sign posted in a conspicuous place on the exterior of the building.

When a mother abandons a child at a designated “safe haven,” and the child is unharmed, no effort will be made to find the mother or charge the mother with abandonment or cruelty to a child.

It’s supposed to be an alternative to leaving children in dumpsters, where many end up. Despite the law, in the past weeks, two children were found abandoned in the Chicago area.

A newborn girl was illegally abandoned in the parking lot of a Schaumburg church. The child was discovered before it could have died from exposure. In Streamwood, a newborn boy was illegally abandoned in a trash can after he was strangled.

The focus of the “Safe Haven” law has been to provide alternatives to mothers who wish to abandon their children so that the children will have a chance to survive. In the case of the Schaumburg girl, she was lucky. The Streamwood boy was not. Both cases are under investigation and the individuals responsible could be charged.

Had the babies been taken to “Safe Havens,” no effort would have been made to find the mothers or to press any charges, as long as the children were unharmed.

But what is missing from this law is an important component. Many of the abandoned children are left by their mothers.

Even when the children are taken to “Safe Havens,” the law assumes that both of the parents of the child (it does take two human beings, one male and one female, to produce a child) have abandoned the baby.

That’s not always the case. What is often the case is that the mother abandons the child and the father is never informed. No effort is made by authorities in “Safe Haven” cases to determine if the father of the abandoned child may wish to have custody.

Just because one parent decides to abandon a child does not mean both parents want to abandon the child.

Yet fathers of newborns are left out of the equation.

Because the two parents are often not married, the rights of the fathers are often pushed aside or subjugated to the will and whim of the birth mother.

That is unfair to a child and to those fathers who would be willing to assume responsibility for the abandoned child’s well-being.

Society needs to insure that a birth father of a baby is first entitled to notice and the opportunity to assume custody before his child is abandoned and left with strangers forever.

(Named one of “America’s Best Lawyers” by Forbes Radio, Jeffery Leving is the author of two ground-breaking books, Fathers’ Rights and Divorce Wars. He can be reached at www.DadsRights.com.)

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