Local News

Officials: More Education Needed on Safe Surrender Law

Posted February 8, 2007 6:49 p.m. EST

— 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.