No charges will be filed against the mother who police say left her infant son at Piedmont Medical Center earlier this month, citing safe haven laws as she told hospital officials she could no longer care for him.
Late on July 11, a teary-eyed mother walked into the hospital’s labor and delivery department and handed over her 2-month-old baby boy to hospital staff, according to police. She told nurses that she was unable to care for the child any longer and cited Daniel’s Law, a state provision that protects anyone who abandons a child at a safe haven against prosecution.
Kevin Brackett, 16th Circuit Court solicitor, said on Thursday that after reviewing the “facts and circumstances” of the case, he decided not to pursue prosecution against the mother.
“Our first concern is the well-being and safety of these kids who are in situations where their parents or caregivers cannot provide for them,” he said.
After the mother left the boy, hospital staff notified the York County Department of Social Services, which then contacted police. Police placed the boy into emergency protective custody, giving DSS legal custody of the child, police said. He will be placed with a foster family.
Guidelines for Daniel’s Law, passed in 2000 after an abandoned baby was found buried alive in a landfill, require hospitals to perform physical exams on the child and then contact the appropriate state DSS office. The law will not grant immunity from prosecution if the child has been harmed in any way.
The infant at Piedmont Medical Center, dubbed “Baby Boy Doe” by the hospital, showed no signs of neglect or abuse, Brackett said.
Police had been unable to determine the exact age of the child. Initially, hospital officials reported that he was 6 weeks old. Later, they reported that he was 2 months old.
Daniel’s Law only protects parents who drop off children at approved safe havens if the child is 30 days or younger.
But the decision to prosecute is at the solicitor’s discretion, Brackett said, adding that he would not prosecute the mother even if the child were 6 or 8 weeks old.
“The child is very young; it’s an infant,” he said. “I’m not going to have them try to track this woman down and place her into custody.”
Police never found Baby Boy Doe’s mother, he said. A police spokesman told The Herald that even if police did find her, that would be no guarantee authorities would file charges.
Brackett said it would be “counterproductive” for his office to seek charges against the mother because that might discourage other parents from turning their children over to safe havens if they cannot care for them.
“The purpose of the law is to provide an outlet for people in desperate straits,” Brackett said. “I’m concerned about that child’s safety far more than I’m concerned about prosecuting this mother.
“We want (parents) to understand yes, you can come in and seek help for your child, drop your child off at one of these safe havens.”
According to Daniel’s Law, safe havens include a hospital or hospital outpatient facility, law enforcement agencies, fire stations, emergency medical stations and a staffed church, synagogue or temple.
Baby Boy Doe was the third child to be left at Piedmont Medical Center under safe haven laws since the law was passed in 2000, hospital officials said. Statewide, 20 children meeting Daniel’s Law regulations have been turned in to safe havens.