Confidential Emergency Care and Shelter for Infants within Three Days of Birth
Mercy offers a healthy alternative for desperate mothers.
Mercy Medical Center has always been in the business of saving lives. The goal of A Secret Safe Place for Newborns is to prevent the tragedy of abandoned and abused infants.
New parents can leave unwanted newborns at Mercy Emergency Department within three days of birth. For the parent’s who abide by the program’s guidelines, total secrecy and immunity from prosecution are ensured.
Mercy is the first hospital in northeast Ohio to offer such a program.
A Safety Net
We’re here to provide a safety net for those who are the most vulnerable and cannot care for themselves. Our aim is to rescue newborns from possible injury or homicide by providing confidential emergency care and shelter.
Infants left at the hospital will be given an identification number and placed in the protective custody of the Stark County Department of Job and Family Services, Children Services Division. The parents will also get the infant’s ID number, in case they change their minds or want to offer information.
The newborn will be released from the hospital to an appropriate home or adoptive family as soon as medical clearance is obtained. As long as the baby is unharmed, the mother will not be prosecuted for abandonment if she acts within three days of the birth.
Beyond National Borders
How widespread is the problem of infant abandonment? Mercy began offering A Secret Safe Place for Newborns after at least two local examples in which abandoned babies’ bodies were found in Stark County; one in a landfill and one in a high school restroom.
While there are no national statistics on abandoned infants, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution suggesting that local, state and federal governments collect statistics on the number of abandoned newborns. And in a national news survey, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found reports of 105 infants abandoned in public places in 1998, 33 of whom were found dead. In 1991, the survey found reports of 65 abandoned babies, eight of which were found dead.
Ohio is among several states that enacted laws that grant immunity and anonymity to mothers who turn unwanted infants over to law enforcement or medical institutions rather than abandoning them in public places. Under this law, a mother who wants to reclaim her child after leaving it at a safe place — a medical or law enforcement institution — must submit to a DNA test and a judge’s ruling, if a DNA match is found.