Safe Haven for Newborns

Safe Haven LogoThe Safe Haven Act is a law that allows parents - or another person who has the parent's authorization - to leave an infant up to 14 days old at a hospital or health care facility without fear of prosecution for abandonment. At least 16 children have been declared safe havens since the Iowa law was enacted in 2002. All states have Safe Haven laws, although provisions differ.

Who is a Safe Haven?
A Safe Haven is an institutional health facility - such as a hospital or health care facility. According to the law - an "institutional health facility" means:

  • A "hospital" as defined in Iowa Code section 135B.1, including a facility providing medical or health services that is open twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week and is a hospital emergency room, or
  • A "health care facility" as defined in Iowa Code section 135C.1 means a residential care facility, a nursing facility, an intermediate care facility for persons with mental illness, or an intermediate care facility for persons with mental retardation.
Requirements for Safe Haven Facilities
Hospitals and health care facilities are encouraged to prominently display the Safe Haven logo.

Hospitals or health care facilities:

May Must
Ask for, but cannot require:
  • The name of the parent or parents.
  • Medical history of the infant.
  • Medical history of the infant's parents.
Notify the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) as soon as possible by calling 1-800-362-2178 that physical custody of an infant has been taken under the Safe Haven Act.

DHS will make the necessary court and legal contacts and assume care, control and custody of the child.
Perform reasonable acts to protect the physical health and safety of the infant with immunity from criminal or civil liability or omissions made in good faith.
Submit the certificate of birth report as required in Iowa Code section 144.14.
Testify at any court hearing held concerning the infant.
Keep confidential any information received or recorded in connection with a good faith effort to voluntarily release an infant under the Safe Haven Act except as outlined in 2001 Iowa Acts, SF 355.

Failure to keep information confidential is a serious misdemeanor.

Requirements for Parents

A parent - or another person authorized by the parent to relinquish physical custody of an infant:

May Cannot
Directly relinquish custody of an infant to an individual on duty at:
  • A hospital,
  • A residential care facility,
  • A nursing facility,
  • An intermediate care facility for persons with mental illness, or
  • An intermediate care facility for persons with mental retardation.

Be required to provide identifying information.
Leave the infant at a hospital or health care facility and immediately contact the facility or call a 911 service to be sure that:
  • An individual on duty is aware of the location of the infant, AND
  • The facility knows an infant has been left there under provisions of the Safe Haven Act.
Be charged with abandonment.

Immunity
The law provides immunity from prosecution for abandonment for a parent - or a person acting with the parent's authorization - who leaves an infant at a hospital or health care facility.

The Safe Haven Act provides immunity from civil or criminal liability for hospitals, health care facilities, and persons employed by those facilities that perform reasonable acts necessary to protect the physical health and safety of the infant.

Information Resources
The following printable information is available:

Publication Links
Recomended Use
Safe Haven Logo
[MSWord 123KB]
For hospitals and health care facilities to:
  • Print in color and laminate if possible.
  • Prominently display in public areas.
Information for Hospitals and Health Care Facilities
[MSWord 36KB]
For hospitals and health care facilities to:
  • Print and place in a prominent location for employee access.
  • Include in procedure manuals.
Information for Parents
[MSWord 38.5KB]
For hospitals and health care facilities to:
  • Print and give to a parent or authorized person leaving an infant at a Safe Haven.
  • Include in procedure manuals.

For Iowa Department of Human Services offices to:
  • Include in procedure manuals.
Department of Human Services Responsibilities
[MSWord 35.5KB]
For Iowa Department of Human Services offices to:
  • Print and place in a prominent location for employee access.
  • Include in procedure manuals.

Images of people and children