Daniel's Law provides safe haven, legal protection for abandoned babies

Daniel's Law provides safe haven, legal protection for abandoned babies

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - After news of a Claflin University student putting her newborn baby in a trash dumpster came to light, many are asking about state law when it comes to children abandoned by their parents.

A state law known as Daniel's Law says a person who abandons a newborn child up to 60 days old cannot be prosecuted for abandonment if the parent takes the child to a safe haven.

A safe haven, according to state law, is defined as a hospital, law enforcement agency, fire station, EMS station, or a house of worship like a church or synagogue if there is staff present.

However, the law says if the baby is harmed in any way, the parent could still risk prosecution.

The state Department of Social Services is also contacted in the case of an abandoned child. DSS will have legal custody of the child and place the baby in a foster home until they are able to pursue legal action to free the child for adoption.

DSS officials say many people may not even know about the law.

"I think if we start educating, I think the earlier the better," Dawn Barton with DSS said. "I don't know what the teen pregnancy rate is, but I can imagine very young girls are probably the ones that just don't know quite what to do and find themselves in that situation."

The law was named after an infant boy who was found buried in a landfill following his birth, according to the state Department of Social Services. The nurses in this case named the boy Daniel while he recovered.

Officials say they made a push for more education on the law back in 2000 when it was introduced but they believe more work needs to be done.

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