Designed to save children's lives, Daniel's Law aims to give a woman an alternative to abandoning her newborn baby in a potentially fatal circumstance. The infant must be less than 30 days old, unharmed and left by the parent or a person acting for the parent.
The baby must be left with staff at a:
• Hospital outpatient facility;
• Law enforcement agency;
• Fire station;
• Emergency medical services station; or
• Staffed worship house during normal, operating hours.
Most places will display a sign or poster designating the location as a Safe Haven.
The law provides the parent immunity from prosecution if these conditions are met.
Safe Haven workers will attempt to complete a standardized form to gather information on the baby's health including medical information about the parents, and this form will accompany the little one to the medical facility.
An infant left under these conditions will be placed in Department of Social Services foster care and adoption proceedings will be initiated immediately.
A local firefighter got quite a surprise last Wednesday when a woman surrendered her baby to him.
"It was about 9 p.m., and the mother rang the doorbell to the Stadium Road fire station," said Capt. Joey Duggan, spokesman for Sumter Fire Department. "She had the infant in her arms and handed him to one of the firefighters. She said she couldn't care for the child anymore, and she knew if she gave the child to a firefighter, it would be OK. She left the diaper bag there, turned around and walked away. The firefighter tried to get her to come back, but she kept walking and went on out. It was a real brief encounter."
Under Daniel's Law, fire stations are considered a safe haven for abandoned babies, such as this little boy. Signed into law in June 2000, the act was named for an infant boy who survived being buried in a landfill shortly after his birth, according to the Department of Social Services brochure on the matter.
Originally, the law covered hospitals, but in 2006, it was amended to include other locations such as law enforcement, emergency medical services stations and houses of worship during staffed hours. As long as a parent or someone acting on behalf of the parent gives the infant to someone working at one of these facilities, he or she will not face prosecution as long as the child is in good health.
This was the first time a baby had been left at a Sumter station, Duggan said.
"I can say that on behalf of the fire department, it's unfortunate that this happened, and at the same time, it's fortunate we were able to assist somebody in that time of stress in her life," he said.
The battalion chief on duty was called, along with EMS and law enforcement. Though the little boy seemed to be in good condition, he was taken by ambulance to Tuomey Regional Medical Center to be checked out.
He did go to the Tuomey emergency room for an assessment, confirmed Brenda Chase, spokeswoman for the Sumter health care system. Everything was fine, and he was turned over to the Department of Social Services.
About 7 a.m. the next day, Dec. 18, the mother called back to the fire department. She gave the child's full name and date of birth, Duggan said, but she did not leave her name. The information was passed on to law enforcement.
The woman also asked how the child was doing.
"I guess that goes to show the mother did the most she could," Duggan said.
"My heart goes out to the family, to the mother, not knowing her circumstances. We hate to know this circumstance had to take place, but we're glad we could help somebody in that time of need."
When she surrendered the child, the mother told the firefighter he was 2 months old. When she gave the baby's birthday, that confirmed his age.
Normally, Daniel's Law only applies to children 30 days old and younger, but Tonyia McGirt, public information officer with Sumter Police Department, said no charges were being pursued.
The baby boy is now in foster care and should soon be available for adoption.
For more information on Daniel's Law, foster care or adoption, visit dss.sc.gov or call 1-888-722-2580.
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