For the 2nd time this month a Florida Fire Station has become the safe haven for a newborn child. Earlier this month a newborn was dropped off in Pinellas County at a Pinellas Park Fire Station
Oviedo firefighters give safe haven to newborn
By Stephanie Erickson and Gary Taylor | Sentinel Staff Writers
Posted October 24, 2002
OVIEDO -- It was 3:30 a.m. when a woman rang the doorbell at Fire Station 44.
The firefighters inside thought she needed medical attention. They were shocked when the woman handed over her healthy, full-term baby who appeared to be less than 12 hours old. Within moments, the woman was gone.
The baby appears to be only the third in the state to be left at a fire station, despite a 2-year-old law that allows parents to drop off newborns with no questions asked. Little information is being released about the child, who was taken to an unidentified hospital and said to be "doing fine."
"The law is very specific," Fire Department Division Chief Lars White said. "We can't ask a lot of questions."
The law even prohibits the release of the baby's gender, he said.
The Safe Baby law, which allows parents to leave newborns up to 3 days old at fire stations or hospitals, went into effect in July 2000 after a spate of abandonment cases in Florida.
Despite the success story in Oviedo early Tuesday morning, the law hasn't worked well, officials said Wednesday.
Desperate parents are still throwing away their babies -- leaving them in garbage cans, toilets, duffel bags and boxes.
No one tracks the exact number of newborns abandoned in Florida, but the Department of Children & Families knows from news accounts that at least 14 have been illegally abandoned since the law's enactment.
The number likely is much higher because DCF figures show that nearly 600 children from newborn through age 2 were abandoned during the past budget year.
State officials hope a public-awareness campaign will help desperate mothers and fathers learn about the safe havens.
"We're doing everything we can with what we have to get the word out," said Bill Parizek, a state Department of Health spokesman.
Law seldom used
The Fire Department's White said the Oviedo drop-off might have been the first time in Central Florida that a baby was actually handed over by a mother to a firefighter.
Last week, a young man in a bloody T-shirt and shorts gave a 1-hour-old infant to a firefighter in Pinellas Park. In September 2001, a 3-hour-old baby was left at a fire station in Miami.
At least two Central Florida babies have been abandoned at hospitals.
A newborn was left in a bathroom stall at Health Central Hospital in Ocoee in November 2000, and in August construction workers found a baby in a parking lot at Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center in Lakeland.
Yvonne Vassel, spokeswoman for the Orlando office of DCF, said that because the law was followed, her agency would have no involvement in the Oviedo case. It will be up to the hospital to contact an adoption agency.
Spread word, advocates say
Advocates of the safe-haven laws say the answer to saving more babies is simple: Spread the word about the law by bombarding people with the message.
"Unless there is an effective awareness campaign, what good is the law?" said Bob Geras, co-founder of the nonprofit Save Abandoned Babies Foundation based in Illinois.
State health officials say they're doing their best. Last year, the state spent $100,000 on posters and a television public-service announcement that aired in Miami and the Tampa Bay area. They'll spend another $100,000 this year.
In California, after complaints that its similar law was not working, the state started a $1.5 million campaign to make residents more aware of it.
California will be distributing posters, informational fliers and wallet cards at schools, malls, counseling offices and community centers, and doing television and radio spots. Sex-education courses in public schools will include information about the law.
In Florida, the Department of Health's Parizek said local governments and others need to help.
"I think that the local grass-roots efforts are what are going to make this successful," he said.
But Glenna Osborne, director of the Children's Home Society of Lake & Sumter counties, said even the best publicity blitz might not do much good.
Parent often in denial
People who dump babies are in denial, and taking the infant to a fire station or hospital would force them to admit they've had a child, she said.
"You are asking a person who has hidden a pregnancy from her parents, school and friends and then given birth alone, to think rationally," Osborne said.
The real solution, she said, is preventing teen pregnancy to begin with, and providing adequate mental-health and substance-abuse services.
The Save Abandoned Babies Foundation is pushing for all states to enact safe-haven laws. To date, 41 states have proposed or adopted similar legislation, co-founder Dawn Geras said Wednesday.
The legislation followed a U.S. Department of Health & Human Services report that counted 105 infants abandoned in the United States in public places such as trash bins, alleys and canals in 1998. That was compared with 65 infant throwaways in 1991.
Officials said the numbers are understated because the study relied solely on newspaper accounts.
As in most states, once newborns are dropped off, the fire station's communications center is notified so firefighters won't get any interrupting calls. The crew takes the child to the nearest hospital.
In Lake and Osceola counties, fire stations have special kits that include diapers, blankets and bandages. Emergency phones have been installed outside Osceola fire stations.
The mother in Oviedo could have simply left the baby outside the fire station, White said, but instead she rang the bell and waited.
"That certainly was better for the baby," he said, because it could have been hours before the baby was found.
The mother spoke briefly to firefighters, he said, and refused medical treatment.
"They were very grateful she did what she did rather than place the infant in a Dumpster," White said.
Stephanie Erickson can be reached at email@example.com or 407-420-5347. Gary Taylor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-324-7293.
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10-25-2002, 12:21 AM #1
Oviedo Florida--Firefighters Offer Safe Haven for Baby09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
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The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.
10-25-2002, 03:44 AM #2
- Join Date
- Jun 2001
"Unless there is an effective awareness campaign, what good is the law?" said Bob Geras, co-founder of the nonprofit Save Abandoned Babies Foundation based in Illinois
Isn't saving the life of one innocent baby worth having the law?
10-30-2002, 10:04 AM #3
"The real solution, she said, is preventing teen pregnancy to begin with, and providing adequate mental-health and substance-abuse services."
OK, so nobody have a baby until we spend several years doing that.
Whether it's 100 times a year or one time, women will still get pregnant with babies they didn't want. To attack this law as pointless is asinine. It ain't perfect, but it's a major improvement."Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.Ē
--General James Mattis, USMC
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