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Hospital, Emergency Services, Social Service Personnel Unite to Save Infants

Contact: Tammy Gay

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Photo of Sherry Holmes and Sandra Chambers
Sherry Holmes, director of nursing, UK Children’s Hospital, and Sandra Chambers, associate hospital director, UK Hospital, discuss the Thomas J. Burch Safe Infants Act during National EMS Week. The act allows parents who feel they are unable to keep their newborn to leave a newborn baby in a safe place, anonymously and without fear of prosecution.

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May 21, 2003 (Lexington, Ky.) -- Infants in danger of being abandoned now have a second chance, thanks to a new state law. In Kentucky, parents who feel they are unable to keep their baby may – anonymously and without fear of prosecution – leave a newborn baby in designated safe places.

Today, during National Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Week, emergency services and hospital personnel around the state are providing public education about the Thomas J. Burch Safe Infants Act.

In Lexington, University of Kentucky Hospital, UK Children’s Hospital, Kentucky Cabinet for Families and Children, Kentucky EMS for Children Project, Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government Division of Police and Division of Fire and Emergency Services, UK Police, and Bluegrass Airport Department of Public Safety personnel are urging parents in distress to give up their newborn babies safely, rather than harming them. These agencies are prepared to accept newborns that would otherwise be abandoned.

“There are countless couples out there who are eager to adopt a healthy baby,” said Denise Weider, social services specialist, Kentucky Cabinet for Families and Children. “In the past, young parents may have gone to desperate measures because they didn't know what else to do.

“Now, they can safely give up their newborn. We place the baby with a foster family who has agreed to adopt the child, and if a parent does not reclaim the child within 30 days, we can move forward with the adoption. The law offers a safe, legal alternative to a desperate young parent while ensuring the child has every chance to grow up in a loving family.”

Similar educational activities for Kentucky’s safe infant abandonment procedures are planned for June throughout the state.

The state’s Safe Infants Act allows parents, or someone acting on their behalf, to leave babies younger than three days old at a safe place. The new law protects the health and safety of unwanted infants and protects parents who are unable to keep their babies. A parent will not be criminally prosecuted for abandoning a baby less than 72 hours old, if the infant is taken to a safe place and has not been physically abused or neglected. Since the act’s implementation, three babies have been abandoned at a “safe place” in Kentucky.

“As public safety workers, we are here for the safe environment of our fellow residents,” said Chief Robert Hendricks, Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government Division of Fire and Emergency Services. “We support this new act and are ready and available to help parents unable to care for their newborn children.”

If a legally abandoned baby is brought to UK Hospital, it will immediately be transferred to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in UK Children’s Hospital.

“Many times in the past, infants were brought to us abandoned in unsafe environments such as dumpsters. This act allows parents, who are scared and alone, to bring their newborns to a safe place, yet be safe themselves,” said Sherry Holmes, director of nursing, UK Children’s Hospital.

Parents may leave a newborn with a hospital emergency room staff person, an official at a police station, a fire fighter at a fire station, or an emergency medical services provider. The babies will be transferred to the nearest hospital for an examination and medical care.

The hospital also will notify the Kentucky Cabinet for Families and Children, the agency responsible for ensuring that the infant is adopted. A parent will then have 30 days after leaving the infant in a safe place to contact the Cabinet if the decision is made to keep the baby.

For more information, please call (502) 564-2136.


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