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Number of Illegally Abandoned and Legally Surrendered Newborns in the State of Texas, Estimated From News Stories, 1996-2006

NCJ Number
Child Maltreatment Volume: 13 Issue: 1 Dated: February 2008 Pages: 89-93
Sandi L. Pruitt MPH
Date Published
February 2008
5 pages
This study examined the public health problem of illegal infant abandonment and the effectiveness of Safe Haven laws in Texas.
Between 1996 and 2006, of the 93 infants, (53 percent male) identified during the study period, 82 were illegally abandoned, 70 percent were found alive, and 11 were legally surrendered. The results of the study suggest that though some infants had been legally surrendered, the Safe Haven law did not cause a dramatic increase or decrease the number of legally abandoned infants in Texas. Much of the morbidity and mortality resulting from unsafe abandonment is preventable by the Safe Haven legislation, at least in theory. Unfortunately, because only one-fourth of the Safe Haven policies across the country require program monitoring, and few States have mandated data collection regarding Safe Haven surrenders, the national impact of these laws is not known. Illegal abandonment continued to occur following passage of the law. The availability of funding may influence the use of Safe Haven laws. Like many States supporting these programs, codified Texas law does not include any government funding mandated for a public awareness campaign. Even if adequate funds were available, developing an effective social marketing campaign might be difficult without accurate portraits of at-risk mothers. Systematic methods of data collection on abandonment at the State and national level will be necessary to target at risk mothers to take advantage of Safe Haven laws. Social service professionals should provide outreach and intervention to high-risk women, and increase awareness and use of Safe Havens. In 1999, Texas was the first of 47 States to pass a Safe Haven law allowing for the anonymous surrender of unwanted newborns at designated locations. Using the LexisNexis database of Texas newspapers, this study estimated the number of illegally abandoned and legally surrendered newborns younger than 60 days. Figure, references