LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) – In Wisconsin, a Safe Haven Law is in place to protect newborns whose parents are unable to properly care for them.
Under the law, the parent of a newborn can relinquish a child to a law enforcement officer, an emergency medical technician or a hospital staff member as long as the child is 72 hours old or younger and is unharmed.
A person assisting the parent may also relinquish the child.
"A young mother without a lot of support may feel overwhelmed, there may be some mental illness that is impacting the ability to parent, so (it's) to have an option to make sure your baby is safe," said Phillip Nielsen, pediatric social worker with Mayo Clinic Health System.
According to the law, the parent and any person who assists the parent has the right to remain anonymous. And they're immune from any civil or criminal liability unless the agency that takes the child into custody has reasonable cause to suspect the child is victim of abuse or neglect, or someone is coercing the parent to release the child.
According to the Safe Place for Newborns, an average of 15 to 20 newborns are surrendered across the state each year; the majority in the Milwaukee area.
Those babies then go through the child welfare system and are placed with an adoptive family.
Safe Place for Newborns said there is a way for a mother to get her child back, but it's extremely complex. Especially since a mother is anonymous when she surrenders her child, a DNA test and surveillance from child protective services is involved.
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