California Adoption Laws, pg 7

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Infant Safe Haven Laws

Infant's Age
Penal Code § 271.5

A child who is 72 hours old or younger may be relinquished.

Who May Relinquish the Infant
Penal Code § 271.5

The child may be relinquished by his or her parent or other person having lawful custody.

Who May Receive the Infant
Penal Code § 271.5; Health & Safety Code § 1255.7

A child may be left at a safe-surrender site that includes:
  • A location designated by the board of supervisors of a county
  • A location within a public or private hospital that is designated by that hospital to be a safe-surrender site


Responsibilities of the Safe Haven Provider
Health & Safety Code § 1255.7

Personnel at a safe-surrender site shall accept physical custody of the child and ensure that a qualified person does all of the following:
  • Places a coded, confidential ankle bracelet on the child
  • Offers the parent a copy of the ankle bracelet identification in order to facilitate reclaiming the child
  • Offers the parent a medical information questionnaire, which may be declined or may be voluntarily filled out and returned at the time the child is surrendered or later filled out and mailed

Personnel of a safe-surrender site that has physical custody of a minor child shall ensure that a medical screening examination and any necessary medical care is provided to the minor child.

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the consent of the parent or other relative shall not be required to provide medical care to the minor child.

As soon as possible, but not later than 48 hours after the physical custody of a child has been accepted, personnel of the safe-surrender site that has physical custody of the child shall notify child protective services or a county agency providing child welfare services that the safe-surrender site has physical custody of the child. In addition, any medical information pertinent to the child's health, including, but not limited to, information obtained pursuant to the medical information questionnaire that has been received by or is in the possession of the safe-surrender site, shall be provided to that child protective services or county agency.

Immunity for the Provider
Health & Safety Code § 1255.7

A safe-surrender site or its personnel that accepts custody of a surrendered child shall not be subject to civil, criminal, or administrative liability for accepting the child and caring for the child in the good faith belief that action is required or authorized, including, but not limited to, instances where the child is older than 72 hours or the parent or individual surrendering the child did not have lawful physical custody of the child. This subdivision does not confer immunity from liability for personal injury or wrongful death, including, but not limited to, injury resulting from medical malpractice.

In order to encourage assistance to persons who voluntarily surrender physical custody of a child, no person who, without compensation and in good faith, provides assistance for the purpose of effecting the safe surrender of a minor 72 hours old or younger, shall be civilly liable for injury to or death of the minor child as a result of any of his or her acts or omissions. This immunity does not apply to any act or omission constituting gross negligence, recklessness, or willful misconduct.

Protection for Relinquishing Parent
Penal Code § 271.5; Health & Safety Code § 1255.7

No person leaving an infant with a safe haven provider may be prosecuted for abandonment, failure to provide, or desertion.

Any personal identifying information that pertains to a parent or individual who surrenders a child that is obtained pursuant to the medical information questionnaire is confidential and shall be exempt from disclosure by the child protective services or county agency.

Effect on Parental Rights
Health & Safety Code § 1255.7

Child protective services shall assume temporary custody of the child immediately upon receipt of notice of the child's relinquishment. Child protective services shall immediately investigate the circumstances of the case and file a dependency petition for the child. As soon as possible, but no later than 24 hours after temporary custody is assumed, child protective services shall report all known identifying information concerning the child, except personal identifying information pertaining to the parent or individual who surrendered the child, to the California Missing Children Clearinghouse and to the National Crime Information Center.

If, prior to the filing of a dependency petition, a parent or individual who has voluntarily surrendered a child requests that the safe-surrender site that has physical custody of the child return the child and the safe-surrender site still has custody of the child, personnel of the safe-surrender site shall either return the child to the parent or individual or contact a child protective agency if any personnel at the safe-surrender site knows or reasonably suspects that the child has been the victim of child abuse or neglect.

Subsequent to the filing of a dependency petition, if within 14 days of the voluntary surrender, the parent or individual who surrendered custody returns to claim physical custody of the child, the child welfare agency shall verify the identity of the parent or individual, conduct an assessment of his or her circumstances and ability to parent, and request that the juvenile court dismiss the petition for dependency and order the release of the child.

Credits: Child Welfare Information Gateway (http://www.childwelfare.gov)

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