ATLANTA — The law doesn’t make it easy to just spontaneously give up a child over 30 days old. But advocates say the woman who left her 14 year old developmentally-disabled son at Grady Hospital had some other options.
The woman was charged with cruelty to children.
Georgia passed a restrictive safe haven law in 2002. The law stated that abandoned newborns:
- had to be less than 72-hours old;
- parents had to drop them off to staff at a hospital;
- and parents had to identify themselves.
In 2017, the state loosened the law, allowing:
- children up to 30-days old to be dropped off;
- to hospital, fire or police station staff;
- and parents could decline to answer questions.
"The law, the way it’s written, is you have to hand (the baby) to a person" at a facility, said Sarah Koeppen, who leads a nonprofit called The Hope Box that handles abandoned children.
The parent "has the right to give as much information as she’s willing to. But she also has the right within the law to give no information if she can’t for some reason. Or doesn’t want to," Koeppen said.
Koeppen says the state has revised its adoption laws covering children older than 30-days old.
The law now allows a parent to give up a child of any age to the state or an adoption agency or an adoption attorney at no charge. Koeppen says adoption attorneys will also protect the anonymity of parents.
"We have the families. That’s not the issue. We have the laws in place. That’s not the issue. It's getting the information out to the person that may be living on the streets, on a cold night, that may be in a desperate situation," Koeppen said.
Koeppen says people inclined to judge the mother who took her teen to Grady should consider that "at least the child is out of the cold and the state's involved, and everybody is looking for a solution now for this child."