Editorial: Safe Haven law needs more discussions

March 19, 2014

By Editorial Board

Somewhere, there’s a mother, probably a young woman, hurting. She’s the one who left her newborn beside the road here in the Snoqualmie Valley last month.

The dead baby, named Baby Kimball by the King County Sheriff’s Office deputies who have been trying to find the woman, was memorialized at a funeral service March 15. The community drew together to honor the child who never had a chance to laugh or eat Popsicles or see the sun and the moon and the stars or pet a puppy or learn to roll over or walk.

While we’ve all been focused on the horrific act, there are a couple things to remember about Baby Kimball and her mother.

The mother, in all likelihood, did not know about the Safe Haven laws in place in our state that allow parents to give up a newborn without repercussions or questions as long as it hasn’t been abused.

While it may seem the law is well-publicized, it’s not reaching many of the teens who, arguably, need most to hear about it.

As one 16-year-old explained to us, in sex education classes they learn about HIV and AIDS, they learn about sexually-transmitted diseases, they learn how to prevent pregnancy and hear lectures about abstaining from sex. But the one thing they don’t hear about is Safe Haven — how they can give up a new baby to any hospital or fire station.

Of course, both that teenager and the baby’s mother could have missed the Safe Haven lesson. As parents know, teenagers have selective hearing and tune out important messages.

The mother in this situation was terribly wrong to leave the baby in the woods. But she undoubtedly felt trapped, frightened and alone. She obviously didn’t know where to turn. We need to be more proactive, letting teenagers and young adults know we will support them. We all need to reach out and let the youths of the community know we care, no matter how insurmountable their problems may seem.

Newspaper stories can only go so far in spreading the word about this program. A larger public information campaign is called for.

While school curricula are already overburdened, it seems worthwhile to include education about Safe Haven laws — likely within the context of existing sex education classes.

By being there for more teenagers, we may prevent more Baby Kimball tragedies.

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One Response to “Editorial: Safe Haven law needs more discussions”

  1. Jean & Mike Morrisey on March 19th, 2014 7:56 pm

    2013 ended, and 2014 started with a rash of Baby Safe Haven law news stories, most of them not on the positive side. Several newborns were found abandoned, and dead, and a police Lieutenant publicly humiliating a young mother who followed the Kansas Baby Safe Haven law to the letter. One of the latest was the story of the newborn found dead beside the road in the Snoqualmie Valley

    Jean and Michael Morrisey, founders of Baby Safe Haven New England, noticed a trend that was getting worse instead of better and began to disseminate information on their seven year success of no deadly newborn abandonments in their region.

    “We immediately were met with resistance by the very people who stood shoulder to shoulder to pass the 50 state’s Baby Safe Haven laws. Our publicity is completely youth oriented, lead by our young spokesperson Renee Marcou. Marcou who has made over 100 appearances on teen/20s targeted radio stations, TV interviews, web and newspaper articles. “Renee does all the communicating to her peers,” say Jean and Michael Morrisey. “She has started what we call ‘normalizing the communication between peers about the laws, hotlines and web sites.’”

    The Morriseys were struck by the Illinois, New York and Florida foundations all exclusively using their over 60+ year old founders as their sole spokespersons to attempt to inform 13 to 30 year olds. “It made absolutely no sense to us. Their spokespersons are two, three and four times as old as the young people they’re trying to inform. It’s AARP talking to MTV, Lawrence Welk versus American Idol, and that’s a huge communication gap!”

    Baby Safe Haven New England has decided to seek out young spokespeople around the country, have Renee Marcou, their young spokesperson work and train them, and utilize up to date technology to bring the information to targeted media outlets across the country. Even in regions where foundations are using their own 60+ year old communicators.

    January 6, 2014, marked exactly seven years since the last deadly newborn abandonment anywhere in New England, three years without any abandonments. The last deadly abandonment in MA was in Milford on Jan. 6, 2007. This record of newborn safety is an almost exact opposite of the time period when most New England states were passing their Baby Safe Haven laws. In MA alone between May 1, 2000 and October 28, 2004 – while the bill was in the MA Legislature – there were 13 newborn abandonments, 6 were deadly, 4 babies were near death when found, and 3 were surrendered in ways similar to safe haven laws.

    Baby Safe Haven New England promotes information to help women in a time of crisis through peer built trust, while other states promote their authority figures and their emphasis on saving babies. The Baby Safe Haven New England strategy works according to all statistics say Jean and Michael Morrisey.

    What is the answer in Washington state? In our state, Massachusetts, we do no education of our Baby Safe Haven law in the school curriculum. There is no money on out state budget for safe haven publicity. But we have the best record in the nation of zero deadly newborn abandonments in over seven years. No abandonments at all in three and a half years. Washington doesn’t need to look past their our young people for the answer to the problem posed by the Sno Valley Star. All that needs to be done is turn loose the Millennials as we did.

    Example of work by Baby Safe Haven New England spokesperson Renee Marcou: https://vimeo.com/1452812

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