Baby Safe Haven Guide

For parents in crisis, the safe surrender baby laws in all 50 states can protect them and their child — but only if they complete the baby surrender correctly. Too many newborns have been harmed, or even died, because their parents didn’t know about Safe Haven laws.

We’ll walk you through everything you need to know about a baby Safe Haven surrender, so that whether you need to surrender your baby in accordance with Baby Moses/Safe Haven laws, or you’re hoping to pursue a Safe Haven baby adoption, you can find all the answers to your questions about this legal and anonymous form of baby surrender.

What is a Safe Haven for Babies?

Many people wonder, “What is a Safe Haven baby relinquishment? How does it work? Where can you find a Safe Haven for unwanted babies? Is it legal?”

A Safe Haven location is a building (usually an emergency services building like a hospital, fire station or police station) where a parent can safely, legally, permanently and anonymously surrender a child within a specific time of their birth (learn more below). These buildings are specifically registered as Safe Havens, and are prepared to receive surrendered babies. They will either be equipped with a special baby box or their staff will be trained to receive surrendered babies.

Approved Safe Haven locations vary by state. It is imperative to find an approved Safe Haven location in your state and follow all state laws to ensure your baby is safe and that you are legally protected.

What Locations Are Registered as a Safe Haven?

Any building bearing a sign that it is a registered Safe Haven, and as such, is a place where a parent can legally, safely and anonymously surrender a child and be protected by Safe Haven laws. Most commonly, Safe Havens are found at:

  • Fire stations
  • Police stations
  • Hospitals

However, not every emergency location is a registered Safe Haven! Use this tool to find your nearest Safe Haven location. If you are unable to find a registered Safe Haven, do not leave your child — you must contact a private adoption agency immediately.

Does Every State Have Baby Safe Haven Laws?

Yes! All 50 states have laws, sometimes called Baby Moses laws or Safe Haven laws, protecting parents who surrender children to registered Safe Haven baby safe locations.

Parents who abandon their children anywhere that is not a Safe Haven location could be criminally liable for child endangerment, abandonment, or neglect.

But at a registered Safe Haven location, it is legal to surrender a child, no questions asked and with no criminal liability. However, time and again, children are still abandoned in unsafe locations, usually because parents did not know that Safe Havens exist.

Why Do Safe Haven Places for Babies Exist?

So, what does baby Safe Haven mean for parents who are unable to care for their new infant? Safe Haven locations give parents the ability to surrender a child anonymously and legally, while ensuring the safety of their baby. This allows parents in crisis to hopefully secure a better future for themselves and their child, without facing legal repercussions.

And, the Safe Haven meaning for babies who are surrendered? These children are surrendered in a safe location, instead of being left somewhere unsafe.

A lack of access to a Safe Haven for an unwanted baby will not prevent an infant from being surrendered if his or her parent feels that she must surrender them. Instead, without access to baby Safe Haven locations, those parents will be forced to illegally leave their child someplace unsafe, which could result in accidental harm (or even death) to that child.

Remember: If you are unable to find a Safe Haven location in your area, you can always contact a private national adoption agency, 24/7. They are free, 100% confidential and can help provide you with important services (at no cost)  like financial assistance, counseling and medical care. Contact an adoption agency now if you need to place your baby for adoption.

Who Can Use a Local Safe Haven for Abandoned Babies?

New parents who are struggling can use a Safe Haven to safely, legally and anonymously surrender a child, or they can contact an adoption agency.

Your individual situation is unique. However, you may choose a safe baby surrender if you:

  • Feel physically, mentally, emotionally or financially unable to raise your baby.
  • Are facing potentially serious consequences for the pregnancy or raising this baby, from your family members, your partner, or anyone in your life.
  • Are struggling to raise your older children, and cannot add another child to your family at this point.
  • Have been raising this baby, but have now realized that you’re unable to care for him or her any longer.
  • Are facing homelessness, joblessness, or instability.
  • Are in an abusive or toxic situation, relationship or home environment.
  • Feel unable to provide the life and opportunities that you want for this baby.
  • Want your baby to have the best possible future, even if that means relinquishing the opportunity to raise this child.
  • Are trying to do what you feel is best for yourself and for this baby.
  • Decide to surrender your unharmed baby within your state’s time limit and according to your state’s laws.

If you are facing one or more of the situations listed above, you may wish to place your baby through a private adoption agency instead of leaving him or her at a Safe Haven location. Adoption agencies can provide you with free services like counseling, medical care, financial support and more. Contact an adoption agency now if you need to relinquish your baby.

How Does Safe Haven Baby Surrender Work?        

When a parent surrenders their child at a Safe Haven location, they must go inside the Safe Haven location and surrender their child to an employee.

Then, they can leave. That’s it. No questions asked.

Again: Parents are not protected by Safe Haven laws if they leave their baby anyplace that is not a registered Safe Haven location.

In order to surrender your baby legally, you must surrender your baby in accordance with your state’s Safe Haven laws. Learn more about your state’s laws here.

Which States Have Safe Haven Baby Boxes?

Although the Safe Haven states for babies include all 50 states in the U.S., only 4 states have baby Safe Haven box locations:

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Indiana
  • Ohio

Use this Safe Haven baby box locations map to find the nearest Safe Haven baby box location in one of those 4 states that have Safe Haven baby boxes.

If your state does not have Safe Haven locations for baby drop off, or offer the boxes, you’ll need to go inside any building registered as a Safe Haven location and surrender the baby directly to an employee. Remember: If you are surrendering your baby, do not leave him or her outside, or unattended!

Interested in adopting Safe Surrender babies? Adoption does not occur at the Safe Haven location itself, as they aren’t licensed to complete adoptions. For this, you’ll need to contact your local foster care department.

What’s the Difference Between Safe Haven and Adoption?

When a baby is surrendered at a Safe Haven location, that child enters foster care and has little to no information about his or her biological history. Safe Haven rescue and adoption is rare, despite the many women who feel they’re no longer able to care for their infants. Safe Haven baby surrender isn’t common simply because there is another (better) option:

  • When a baby is voluntarily placed for adoption through a private adoption agency instead of left at a baby Safe Haven, that child never enters foster care.
  • Instead, he or she is placed directly into the arms of a permanent adoptive family.
  • That family is often selected by the baby’s birth mother herself through the agency.
  • Through the adoption agency, the biological family also has the option to stay in touch with their child and the adoptive family for life, with as much or as little communication as they feel comfortable with.
  • This allows the adopted child to have at least some amount of information about his or her biological history, if not an ongoing relationship with his or her birth family.

For this reason (and for many other reasons), contacting an adoption agency is a better option than leaving your baby at a Safe Haven location. Remember: Adoption agencies are available 24/7, they’re free, confidential and can even provide you with financial assistance. Contact an adoption agency now if you need to place your baby for adoption.

Interested in adopting a surrendered baby? Contact an adoption agency or your state’s foster care department to learn more about Baby Moses adoption programs.

More FAQ About the Baby Safe Haven Program

Still have some questions about Safe Haven surrender, adoption or other aspects of the baby surrender programs in the U.S.? Start here:

How can I adopt a Safe Surrender baby?

Many hopeful parents are interested in adopting the babies surrendered at a Safe Haven. Adoption does not occur directly through the Safe Haven location — they’re not licensed to complete child placements. If you’re interested in pursuing a Safe Haven baby box adoption, you’ll need to contact your local foster care department.

Is there some sort of Safe Haven adoption center that I could directly adopt a child from?

No. There is no Safe Haven adoption agency that specifically places infants surrendered at Safe Haven locations.

Children who were surrendered at Safe Haven locations become wards of the state (i.e. they enter foster care), so if you are interested in the adoption of surrendered babies you’ll need to contact your state’s foster care department.

Most infants are placed for adoption by their biological mothers through private adoption agencies, so if you wish to adopt an infant, contact an adoption agency.

Do people really bring babies to a Safe Haven location if they need to surrender the infant?

Not often, but yes. Women who are in the midst of a crisis may need to legally and anonymously surrender their baby safely, and so they may choose to do so at a Safe Haven location.

However, most women choose to place their infants for adoption through private adoption agencies. This free and confidential option allows them to choose their child’s family, to receive free services like counseling, health care and financial support, and to stay in touch with their child through an open adoption.

How old does a baby have to be in order to be surrendered at a Safe Haven location?

Every state has laws regarding the age of infants that may be surrendered at Safe Haven locations, ranging from 72 hours to 1 year of age. Check your state’s eligibility requirements before taking your baby to a Safe Haven location.

If you need to surrender your baby, and he or she is too old for your state’s Safe Haven policies (or if you haven’t given birth yet), you’ll need to contact a private adoption agency immediately. They’re available 24/7.

How will I know if a place is a Safe Haven location?

In most states, emergency services locations, like hospitals, police stations or fire stations, are Safe Havens. Look for a sign on the front of the building, or check the Safe Haven location map here.

If the building is not a registered Safe Haven, it is not legal or safe to leave your child there! Immediately contact an adoption agency, instead.

How do I contact a Safe Haven location?

Whether you need to report an abandoned infant, or you need to surrender your newborn, you can start with the Safe Haven baby website, or by calling the baby Safe Haven hotline here.

Thinking about placing your baby for adoption? Want to adopt a child? Contact an adoption agency now.