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Phoebe is a “Safe Place for Newborns”

Albany, GA | April 27, 2023 – Georgia’s “Safe Haven” law, designed to protect newborns, gives criminal immunity to a mother who leaves a baby with a staff member at a hospital, fire station or police station. Phoebe wants to remind the public that all its hospitals are safe places for newborns under the law, and the health system has a policy in place to deal with surrendered newborns.

“This is a very rare occurrence anywhere, but we are prepared to safely take custody and care of a newborn and offer support to a mother if a child is properly surrendered to us,” said Dianna Grant, MD, Phoebe Putney Health System Chief Medical Officer. “At Phoebe, protecting babies is vital to our vision ‘to make every life we touch better,’ and it is certainly part of our Safety First commitment.”

Under the Georgia law, only a newborn’s mother can surrender a child and only if the baby is no more than 30 days old. The baby must be left in the physical custody of a staff member or volunteer. The statute does not offer protection from prosecution if the child has been harmed, if the child is simply abandoned without being handed over to an appropriate person, or if anyone other than the baby’s mother surrenders the child.

Per the state law, any mother surrendering a baby would be asked to provide her name and address, as well the medical history and other relevant information about the baby, but the mother would not be required to provide any of that information.

“By no means do we want to encourage parents to abandon their children, but we know sometimes conditions exist in which a mother cannot properly care for a new baby. The state instituted this law as kind of a last level of protection to ensure babies aren’t neglected, abused or abandoned,” Dr. Grant said. “Since April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, this is an appropriate time to remind the community about this law,” she added.

If a baby were surrendered to Phoebe, the hospital would immediately notify the Department of Human Services (DHS). DHS would take custody of the child once the baby is ready for medical discharge.