Safe Haven for Infants Act

To ensure the safety and well being of infants at risk of abandonment, the "Safe Haven for Infants Act" (Rhode Island General Law 23-13.1) allows a parent to anonymously relinquish an infant without facing prosecution. This Act requires every hospital, open medical emergency facility, fire station or police station operating in Rhode Island to take, without court order, temporary physical custody of an infant appearing to be age thirty days or younger, who is voluntarily left with a staff member of the facility by a parent of the infant or a person acting on behalf of the parent when that person does not express an intent to return for the infant and circumstances give rise to a reasonable belief that the person does not intend to return for the infant.

A parent or a person acting at the direction of the parent who leaves a child at one of these facilities is immune from prosecution for the act of abandonment if the infant is left in the physical custody of a staff member of the hospital or one of the other facilities and a comprehensive medical examination determines the infant has not been harmed or been the victim of physical neglect or abuse. The person leaving the infant may leave information regarding the identity of the infant, the parent or other family member but is not required to do so. It is the responsibility of the hospital or other facility to offer the person written information provided by the Department concerning the legal effect of leaving the infant and the rights and immunity of the parents. The Department is responsible to develop an awareness program that includes, in part, the issuing of pamphlets and other literature to disseminate information regarding the rights and immunity established under this law.

The hospital or other designated facility must immediately contact the Department regarding the infant. The Department responds immediately to the hospital or other facility, place the child on a child protective hold and make arrangements for the child to undergo a comprehensive medical examination by a physician or a licensed nurse practitioner in accordance with RIGL 40-11-5. Thereafter, the Department petitions the Family Court for an Ex Parte order to place the child in the temporary custody of the Department pursuant to RIGL 40-11-7. If no person has asserted a claim to be the parent of the infant within ninety days after the Department has obtained temporary custody of the infant, the Department must initiate proceedings to terminate the parental rights of the parents on the legal basis of abandonment.