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Officials: More Education Needed on Safe Surrender Law

Posted February 8, 2007

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— Social workers and public officials said Thursday that they struggle daily to get word out about North Carolina's Safe Surrender  Law for mothers to abandon newborns without penalty.

Two babies were left for dead this week in eastern North Carolina. A newborn boy was found on the back steps of an abandoned house in Warsaw on Tuesday afternoon, and another infant boy was found in a Dumpster behind a Rocky Mount supermarket on Wednesday afternoon.

Authorities are awaiting autopsy results in each case to determine whether the infants were alive when they were abandoned.

The Safe Surrender Law allows mothers to leave infants up to 7 days old with a responsible adult -- preferably at a hospital, police or fire station -- without fear of punishment. Since the law took effect in 2001, six children have been surrendered and have survived.

State statistics also show that 24 babies have died after being abandoned in recent years.

Social workers said not enough women know about the law -- or if they do, they're not using it.

"People need to know there is a safe solution to leaving your baby or killing your baby," said Regina Wesley, a social worker with the Cumberland County Health Department.

Wesley said she and other social worker counsel every woman who come to the health department for a pregnancy test about the law.

"(But) we're not reaching the population we need to reach," she said.

"We're very concerned that young people don't understand that there is an option, and I think we need to do some educating," said state Rep. Jim Crawford, D-Granville, who co-sponsored the law six years ago.

Only two infants have been surrendered in Cumberland County since the law was enacted.

"The information is available in all government offices -- the fire department, the police department -- and it's in the hospital," said Mary McCoy of the state's Child Protective Services agency.

Police officers on child fatality teams also promote the law to the public, McCoy said.

Wesley said churches and other organizations need to help spread the news to prevent cases like those in Warsaw and Rocky Mount.

"Babies don't deserve that. Babies are supposed to be loved and nurtured, and everyone deserves a fighting chance," Wesley said.

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  • Lukey Feb 9, 2007

    capecru: You're correct in stating that it is fear of exposure. If a person (it'snot all kids who do the abandoning)has hidden the face for nine months that's pretty shrewd. This must be a pretty smart individual. So let's help them to keep the secret. The law states that they can just hand over the child to a responsible party and no names will be exchanged. How much more confidential can you get? Let's expand the idea of posting a note on all areas where baabies have been abandoned to include: McDonald's restrooms, dumpsters, and everywhere it is apt to take place. This is not a cure-all, it is a stop-gap. It won't help all of 'em but it may save one.

  • shoyaryt Feb 9, 2007

    I don't think it's the fear of punishment or penalty that keeps these young mothers to abandoning their new born babies in dumpsters... it's the fear of exposure. I think most of these young mothers have hid their pregnancies from family and friends, gave birth to the babies on their own or with someone they trust, and then committed that horrible act. Just so they could go back to being a "teenager". If the Safe Surrender Law also maintains their identities confidential, that's something they should promote as well, and they may have a bigger response.

  • Harrison Bergeron Feb 9, 2007

    Yes, lets throw a whole bunch of tax money at the problem to further educate the ineducable. Since our schools are obviously too busy either indoctrinating or serving as a farm team for the prisons, they've been out of the education business for quite a while now.

    nthomas42 has the right idea, there's no point in fighting Darwin. He's going to win.

  • superman Feb 9, 2007

    You can use airplanes and have them write messages in the sky too-- but any low life who thinks it is ok to put a child in the dumpster is beyond redemption. They werent looking for a safe place to put their child-- they were looking for a trash bin. The only way u help those people is give me a list of trash containers that accept live babies

  • diwanicki Feb 9, 2007

    pfc, you are right and so are some of the rest of you. Each person that does this to a child needs to be picked up by their ankles and have them smacked together. They know its wrong. I like the idea of putting placards on dumpsters. when i was in school in SEX ED we learned about everything, abstance,birth control and what have you. Parents also need to talk to their kids about it. Stop putting it off. Some of the women leaving babies like this are adults that know better. we all need to do our part to help spread the word about SAFE SURRENDER.

  • huntleyperez Feb 9, 2007

    I dont understand that level of fear either...but that is besides the point. The problem needs to be addressed yesterday......

  • Tired of thoughtlessness Feb 9, 2007

    I dont see how any women can carry a baby for 9 months, give birth to a live child and it end up dead in the trashcan.

  • huntleyperez Feb 9, 2007

    Well considering your public school arent allowed to mention anything short of abstaining from sex to the very population that needs this info..exactly how do you intend to get it out????? The head in the sand approach with todays sexually active teens doesnt work and hasn't for a long time. But the most effective information route has been denied due to???? ignorance!

  • kat Feb 9, 2007

    I hope all grocery stores, churches and hispanic ministries will promote this law in English and Espanol.

  • Tarheeljunior Feb 8, 2007

    I can forsee the ultra-conservative, abstinence is the only education policy, advocates having an issue with putting safe surrender education in schools, but I think it needs to be put everywhere. Children are found in McDonald's bathrooms, dumpsters, and abandonned doorsteps...anywhere this kind of criminal behavior can be averted, safe surrender education needs to be. The truth of the matter, it doesn't matter what kind of sex education a person supports, every one supports that a child brought into this world by a parent who is not ready still deserves a chance at a safe and happy life. Safe surrender is an amazing policy and it needs to be spread.