Thursday, September 16, 2010

Agencies come together to save newborn babies


Kansas City-area police departments, fire departments, health departments, hospitals and social service agencies are banding together to protect newborn babies.

These agencies have worked together to develop a metro-wide Safe Havens for Newborns community awareness campaign. They launched the bi-state campaign with a press conference at 10 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 16, in the parking lot west of Ward Parkway Center at 87th Street and State Line Road. Featured speakers at the event included Kansas City Police Chief James Corwin, Leawood Fire Chief Ben Florance, and Florida’s Safe Haven for Newborns founder Nick Silverio.

Both Missouri and Kansas have passed laws designed to protect newborn children from injury and death caused by abandonment. Missouri’s law passed in 2002, and Kansas’ law passed in 2006. But little has been done to educate the public about the laws or notify parents about where they can safely hand over their baby without fear of prosecution. As a result of the Safe Havens initiative, there are now Safe Havens signs available to all Safe Haven agencies in the Kansas City area to post near each building’s entrance.

In Missouri, infants 5 days old or younger can be handed over to an employee at a hospital, police station, fire station or ambulance station. In Kansas, infants 45 days old or younger can be handed to an employee at a fire station, hospital, or city or county health department. The law is intended to protect newborn babies from being abandoned or harmed by their unprepared parents.

Organizers of the Safe Haven initiative believe it could prevent cases like that of a 25-year-old Overland Park woman who gave birth to a baby girl in her parents’ basement on May 31, 2009. She was accused of killing the newborn by asphyxiation and then putting the baby’s body in a refrigerator. She was convicted of second-degree murder in April 2010. Her parents’ home was three blocks from a fire station, where she could safely have handed over the baby and faced no legal repercussions.

The press conference featured 148 pink and blue balloons representing every life saved by the Safe Haven for Newborns program launched by Nick Silverio in Florida. Silverio has been integral to helping the Kansas City metro area replicate the program. Press conference attendees took a balloon or two with them to remind them throughout the day of the difference the Safe Havens program can make.

And here are my remarks from today's press conference, along with some photos:

We at the Kansas City Missouri Police Department were eager to support the Safe Havens program from the get-go. It just makes sense, and it protects the most innocent among us.

In Missouri, you can hand over your newborn baby – up to 5 days old – to an employee at a police station, fire station, ambulance station or hospital. For women who are in crisis and are ready to abandon or harm their babies, this is the best possible option. If the baby has not been neglected or abused, parents will face no legal repercussions for handing it over to someone at a Safe Haven. The baby will receive a physical examination, loving care and a brand new chance at life.

The law in Missouri has been in effect for nearly eight years, but hardly anyone knew about it. We’re here today to change that. I hope that from this day forward, no baby in the Kansas City metropolitan area will be hurt or abandoned because its parents are too ashamed or unable to care for it. There are people out there who do care: police officers, firefighters, paramedics, and doctors and nurses.

All of these people are gathered here today on State Line Road to say we will provide safe places for unwanted newborns across the metropolitan area. Signs like the ones you see here are now at all Kansas City Missouri Police stations and at Headquarters.

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