Your Opinion: Safe haven law helps prevent abuse

Dear Editor:

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and there will be many opportunities to learn about ways to prevent abuse. There will be two special events during the month of April in Jefferson City that citizens can attend in support of prevention of child abuse.

• Missouri Kids First, the state Chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America, will host a ceremony on the South Lawn of the Capitol at noon Wednesday, April 13. Find more details at: http://www.missourikidsfirst.org/pcamo/?page_id=332

• Missouri’s Children’s Trust Fund will be presenting a child abuse prevention conference at Capitol Plaza Hotel April 13-15. Registration information is provided at: http://ctf4kids.org/

A critical child abuse prevention strategy is the Safe Havens for Newborns law. Safe Haven laws allow parents to surrender newborns legally, but few mothers who abandon or kill their babies know that. Missouri’s Safe Haven statute has been on the books since 2002, but sadly, not many citizens know about this life-saving law. Safe Havens for Newborns provide a legal option to birth parents who are not ready to raise a child and feel their only option is to abandon the baby. Relinquishing a newborn at a Safe Haven location ensures the baby is left in a safe place with those who can provide the immediate care needed for their safety and well-being.

Last week, Missouri’s Attorney General Chris Koster stated that: “Missouri’s ‘Safe Haven’ law dates back to 2002. It is unfortunate that, eight years later, any mother unable to care for her child would not be aware that she can legally hand over the baby at a hospital, police station, or fire station. The law was designed to save lives, but it can only do so if we make sure every Missourian knows about it.”

Child Abuse Prevention Month is an opportunity for all citizens to not only learn more about preventing abuse, but is also an important chance to find out about preventing deaths of abandoned newborns.

Additional information about Safe Havens in Missouri is posted on the Mother & Child Health Coalition’s website: http://mchc.net/programs/safe_havens.aspx

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