How to Abandon a Baby Safely and Legally

How to Anonymously Leave a Baby: The Safe and Legal Way

In extreme circumstances, new parents have felt pushed into asking, “Where can one safely leave a baby?” The abandonment of a baby only happens when the parent doesn’t know that adoption is an option, and that it’s never too late to choose adoption.

However, time and again, babies have been abandoned next to dumpsters, in trash bags, or outside of buildings. The parents often hope that the baby will be found and cared for, but these situations commonly end tragically — with injury or death of the baby and the arrest of the parent.

To help prevent such tragedies, Safe Haven laws were created. These laws allow struggling parents to surrender their newborn to someone at a specific location, called a Safe Haven. They can surrender their baby to someone there with no questions asked — their baby is safe, and they are legally protected from child endangerment charges. But many parents still don’t know about Safe Haven laws, and continue to abandon newborns unsafely and illegally.

Safe Havens are the only place that a parent can leave a baby, safely and legally. Abandoning a baby anywhere else is illegal, unsafe, and should never be done. You don’t need to leave a baby someplace unsafe: You have options, which will protect both the baby and the parent!

So, if you feel that absolutely must surrender your newborn, here’s how to do it — the safe and legal way.

Call an Adoption Agency Right Now

If you’re trying to figure out where to leave your newborn unwanted baby, the search ends here: You can call an adoption agency, and they’ll place your baby directly into a permanent adoptive family. Contacting an adoption agency is always better than abandoning your baby, even at a Safe Haven, because:

  • Placing your baby through an adoption agency is easier and faster than you might think — a professional will walk you through it, and they can have an adoptive family there in a matter of hours.
  • You can be as involved in the process as much (or as little) as you want to be.
  • It’s always 100% safe and legal to place your child through an adoption agency, whereas abandoning your baby (even if you think it’s a safe place) could leave you criminally liable for child endangerment, neglect and abandonment — serious crimes.
  • When you abandon your child, they enter foster care, possibly for years. When you place your baby through an adoption agency, he or she is placed directly into their “forever” family — no foster care involved.
  • You can choose the parents you want for your child when you work with an adoption agency, and you can even stay in touch, if you choose to. Or, you can let the agency handle it all. It’s entirely up to you.
  • Adoption agencies can provide you with important free services, like counseling, free medical care (including covering the costs of your childbirth) and even financial support. You receive no support or services if you abandon your child someplace.
  • It’s always 100% free and confidential to place your baby through an adoption agency, and they’re available 24/7.
  • Calling an adoption agency is always safer for your baby, and legally safer for you. Talk to someone at an adoption agency now to place your newborn for adoption.

However, you may still have some questions about whether or not it’s safe to leave your baby, where to leave a baby, what happens to these babies and other questions about the Safe Surrender baby program. Start here:

FAQ About How to Abandon a Baby (Safely and Legally)

Whether you have questions about how to surrender your baby, you’re curious about whether or not babies are still abandoned, or about have general questions about Safe Haven, these frequently asked questions will help you find the answers you need:

“What does it mean to surrender a baby?”

By surrendering a baby for adoption, whether at a Safe Haven or through an adoption agency, you’re voluntarily giving up your legal parental rights. A parent surrenders their rights when they decide that they are unable or unwilling to provide for their child, and they feel that the best future for their baby is with permanent adoptive parents who are ready for this task.

“How does a mom abandon her baby? I could never do that!”

If you’ve never had to consider surrendering a child, you can count yourself very lucky. However, try to imagine the extreme pressure that a parent must be under if they’re considering leaving baby behind to be adopted. A parent only considers adoption if they feel it’s the best possible option for their child, and it’s an act of selfless love.

“I abandoned my baby at a Safe Haven. Am I a bad person?”

No. When faced with difficult circumstances, everyone does the best that they can. If you left your child at a safe, registered baby surrender site, you did what you felt was best for your child in the face of those circumstances.

Remember that adoption is always an option: Rather than leaving baby at a safe place, the safest thing for your child is to always contact a licensed national adoption agency. They’ll be able to help you create an adoption plan immediately — you can choose your child’s adoptive parents, the amount of openness you wish to have in your adoption and much more.

“Who can surrender a baby?”

Every state has its own Safe Haven laws, which specify who may surrender a baby, the baby’s maximum age, where the child can be surrendered and more. In every state, the parent of the baby may surrender him or her for adoption or to someone at a Safe Haven location. However, some states also permit others to surrender the baby on behalf of the parent. Check your state’s laws to be sure.

“Where can you surrender a baby?”

One of the most common questions about how to safely surrender your baby is, “Where can you leave an unwanted baby?” Places you can leave a baby (legally and safely) are called Safe Havens.

Again, each state will specify its Safe Haven sites to surrender baby, so you’ll need to be absolutely sure that you can surrender your baby here before you attempt the surrender. Otherwise, you could be criminally liable for child endangerment, neglect and abandonment. Use this map to find your nearest Safe Haven location, or contact a nation-wide adoption agency immediately.

“Can I abandon my baby without getting into trouble?”

Only if you follow your state’s Safe Haven guidelines. This means that you would need to be eligible for Safe Haven surrender: Your baby is under a certain age, you directly hand your child to an on-duty employee at a certain Safe Haven location and more. You’ll need to check your state’s Safe Haven laws — failure to surrender a baby in accordance with your state’s laws means that you would not be legally protected, and yes, you could get into serious trouble.

However, you’ll never get into trouble for contacting an adoption agency and placing your child for adoption through them. This is the safest option — for you and for your baby.

“Where can I abandon a baby?”

You can’t leave your baby just anywhere. To be legally protected under Safe Haven laws, you can only leave your baby in the hands of an on-duty employee at a Safe Haven site.

Important: You cannot leave your baby anywhere unattended, including outside of a building. You would be criminally liable for abandonment, in addition to any harm that comes to the baby. You must directly hand your baby to a person at a registered Safe Haven location, or contact an adoption agency.

“What kinds of sites can a baby be surrendered to?”

A baby may be surrendered at a Safe Haven location, which will vary from one state to the next. Most states consider 24/7 emergency service locations to be Safe Havens, which commonly includes hospitals, fire stations or police stations. In some states, you can even call 911 and surrender your baby to the EMS providers who answer the call.

Some states have additional locations that are registered as Safe Havens, like churches or community buildings, but it’s important to remember not all of these locations may be a Safe Haven in your state. Someone who is able to provide emergency care must be at the building, 24/7. When in doubt, check for Safe Haven signage outside of the building, or check this Safe Haven locator map.

Find the nearest safe place to leave a baby here, or contact a nation-wide, 24/7 adoption agency now.

“Is outside of a Safe Haven a safe place to leave my baby?”

No. Again: It’s illegal to simply pick a “safe” place and leave your baby there. You must go inside a Safe Haven location, and you must directly hand your baby to someone on-duty there.

Do not leave your baby outside of a Safe Haven — you would not be legally protected under Safe Haven laws, and you could be held criminally liable. Always place your baby into the hands of a Safe Haven staff member, or contact an adoption agency to hand your baby directly to his or her permanent adoptive parents.

“Where can you leave a baby at a Safe Haven location where he or she will be found?”

In the hands of an on-duty employee (your state will specify who that employee is) at a registered Safe Haven location. This resource will help you understand where your state will allow you to leave a baby, no questions asked.

Again: You may not leave your baby unattended inside or outside, even if you think it’s a “safe” place where he or she will be found quickly. You must enter the building, hand your baby to an employee, and then you can walk away.

But, the best option is to contact an adoption agency. They can have waiting adoptive parents by your side in a matter of hours.

“Can young parents safely surrender their newborn babies at the hospital?”

Often, yes. However, this will depend on whether or not that hospital is considered a Safe Haven location in that specific state.

If a parent leaves the hospital after the birth of the baby, and does not return for the child, it is often considered a forfeiture of their parental rights after a certain period of time. These policies will vary by state.

However, it is just as easy (and much safer) to contact an adoption agency at the hospital. When a baby is simply left at the hospital, he or she will enter foster care to await permanent placement. But when the parent contacts an adoption agency, the baby is placed into a permanent adoptive family immediately, and can avoid foster care. It’s never too late to contact an adoption agency.

“Where can I leave a baby if I’ve taken it home for a while, but now realize I can’t take care of it?”

Each state has a varying maximum age limit for babies who can be surrendered to employees at Safe Haven sites. In many states, you can still surrender your child at a Safe Haven, even if he or she is several days (or sometimes, weeks) old.

Do not abandon your child if he or she has exceeded your state’s Safe Haven age limit. Contact an adoption agency immediately — they can place older infants for adoption!

“I want to abandon my baby, but the father wants to keep it. Is surrendering a baby without his consent an option?”

It’s always best to contact an adoption agency if you and the father disagree. They can talk you through your legal options based on your individual situation, and can potentially help you create an adoption plan for your baby.

“What information is needed to surrender a baby?”

In most states, little to none. But, if you are asked to provide some information, don’t panic! As long as you are surrendering your baby at a registered Safe Haven location and to the correct person on staff, you will not “get in trouble” for surrendering your baby.

Any information you provide is intended to help your baby, not to get you into trouble — your medical history, honest information about any substance use during your pregnancy, or even contact information could save this child’s life one day.

Although adoption agencies ask you to provide more personal information than Safe Haven surrenders, that information is so important for your child’s future health and peace of mind. Plus, that information is confidential. Contact an adoption agency now to learn more.

“Are there some kind of ‘abandoned children and babies facilities’ where you can leave an unwanted baby?”

Not really. Although it’s legal, anonymous and easy to surrender your child to a staff member at a Safe Haven location, those locations usually aren’t licensed to place those children for adoption.

For that, they contact an adoption agency. That’s why it’s always best to directly call an adoption agency yourself — you’ll have full control over the process, and you can even choose your baby’s family and the amount of openness you wish to have.

“Where can I abandon my baby without having to talk to anyone?”

Four states in the U.S. have something called Safe Haven baby boxes, where a newborn may be placed inside without ever having to talk to anyone. You can find those boxes here. In every other state, you must enter the Safe Haven location, directly hand your baby to someone on staff and then you can walk away.

So, in almost every situation, you will have to talk to someone briefly.

 “Can you leave a baby at a orphanage?”

Leaving your baby at an orphanage is no longer an option in the U.S., because there aren’t any orphanages. They’ve long since been replaced by the foster care system and by private infant adoption agencies, which can help you place your baby for adoption in a permanent, loving family. Contact an adoption agency now, and they’ll help you get started.

“If someone leaves a baby on your doorstep, what should you do?”

You may have seen a headline in the news saying, “Woman Leaves Baby at Doorstep,” and worry, “Do people still leave babies at doorsteps? If women are leaving babies on doorsteps, what should I do if I find a baby on my porch?” But, this is extremely rare and probably won’t ever happen to you. Women now have the option to relinquish their child at a Safe Haven location, or to an adoption agency.

However, if you do ever find an abandoned baby, you should call 911 immediately. They’ll assume custody of the baby from there. And no, you cannot keep or adopt the baby. Adoptive parents will adopt the child through the state’s foster care, or with a licensed adoption agency. If you’re interested in adopting, start here.

“I’m not going to abandon my baby, but I don’t feel ready to take care of it, either. What are my options?”

Your remaining option is adoption. Contact an adoption agency right now. This will prevent you from having to abandon your baby at a Safe Haven location, and it will also prevent you from feeling pressured into parenting this baby when you’re not ready.

Choosing adoption for your baby may be the best option for your child (and for yourself). We know it’s never an easy decision, but we also know that it’s a path you choose out of love for your baby. Adoption is an act of selfless love.

For more information about Safe Haven laws, where to surrender a baby (safely and legally) and why contacting an adoption agency is always preferable to abandoning a baby, explore our other guides on emergency adoption situations.