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In the wake of news reports that three infants found abandoned over the last two years in Orosi were likely siblings, local officials are again reminding people that hospitals and most fire stations offer a safe place to leave newborns.
All Community Medical Centers hospitals are designated as Safe Surrender Sites.
Under California law, anyone who safely delivers a baby into the hands of employees at such a site within 72 hours after birth will be immune from prosecution. Hospital employees may ask the person leaving the baby to fill out a medical questionnaire but will not ask for any identifying information or alert police as long as the baby is left without signs of abuse.
Although Community hospitals have had Safe Surrender signs up since 2001, there haven’t been any babies abandoned there, said David Boyd, director of clinical effectiveness who helped put infant abandonment policies in place at Community.
“How to get information out to those populations is the hard part,” Boyd said. There is little information on the number of babies abandoned statewide or nationally and little information about what motivates parents to walk away from their newborns.
The Abandoned Infants Assistance Resource Center at the University of California, Berkeley, researched the issue from media reports and found that mothers who abandoned their newborns were primarily very young, unmarried, physically healthy and usually pregnant for the first time.
Researchers found that these troubled women did not fall within any certain race, ethnicity or income level and that the vast majority lived with their parents. They also kept their pregnancies secret or were in denial about the pregnancy and sought no prenatal care. Such statistics make it challenging to educate potential mothers about safe havens for newborns.
According to news reports, the Orosi infants were found abandoned in the same neighborhood, with the last being discovered dead. DNA tests revealed the first two babies – a boy found alive on Feb. 10, 2005, and a girl found alive on Jan. 8, 2006 – were full siblings. The third infant, a girl found in the bed of a pickup parked on the street, was likely a half-sister to the others, according to Tulare County sheriff’s investigators.
This story was reported by Erin Kennedy. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.