The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services joins A Secret Safe Place for Newborns of Tennessee, Inc. to alert citizens to the newly amended Safe Haven Law passed by the Tennessee General Assembly and signed by Governor Bill Lee on June 15, 2020.
The bill, HB2357/SB2629, increases the timeframe in which the mother of a newborn may surrender custody of the child to an approved facility without criminal liability from within 72 hours of birth to within two weeks. The House bill was sponsored by Rep. Mary Littleton and the Senate bill was sponsored by Sen. Dawn White. The new law went into effect immediately with Gov. Lee’s signature.
“Tennessee’s Safe Haven Law has been proven to save lives, and this enhancement will go even further by giving mothers in desperate circumstances additional time to make a difficult decision,” DCS Commissioner Jennifer Nichols said. “We are grateful for the leadership of Representative Littleton and Senator White and for their work on this legislation. The additional time afforded mothers through the expanded Safe Haven law may save the lives of the most vulnerable citizens in Tennessee, helpless newborns.”
The Tennessee Safe Haven Law allows mothers to safely surrender a newborn baby within 14 days of birth, confidentially to staff at any designated Secret Safe Place for Newborns facility without fear of prosecution. Facilities include hospitals, birthing centers, community health clinics, outpatient and walk-in clinics, as well as fire, police, and EMS stations that are staffed 24 hours a day.
“This recently passed legislation will help to save even more children in the state of Tennessee,” Representative Littleton said. “Senator White and I both worked hard to see this passed in the House and Senate. I am glad that the General Assembly could work together to see the importance of Save Haven and to continue to protect newborn babies.”
“Tennessee’s existing Safe Haven Law has helped save the lives of over 100 newborn babies since it was originally adopted,” Senator White said. “The increased time frame resulting from the recently passed legislation will give mothers an additional option to choose life and expand the opportunity to keep a child from being neglected or harmed.”
“Ultimately, we want mothers to know that they have another option – one that is safe, secure, and confidential,” said A Secret Safe Place Executive Director Kayla Ridenour. “While it is always in the best interest for the infant to be surrendered as soon as possible, the change in the law gives mothers more time to make this brave decision if needed.”
A Secret Safe Place for Newborns of Tennessee, Inc. is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization that supports and assists facilities where mothers can surrender their babies, operates a 24-hour helpline to answer questions, and educates young women across the state about this legal alternative to infant abandonment.