| Safe Place for Newborns
St. Cloud Hospital and Stearns County Human Services have partnered to provide confidential protective shelter, medical care and treatment in a hospital setting of an unwanted and unharmed newborn (born up to 72 hours old).
The Minnesota Legislature enacted the Safe Place for Newborns law in 2000. This law allows a mother, or a person who has her permission, to leave a newborn at a hospital without fear of prosecution for abandonment. ((MN Statues: section 260C.217 and 145.902)
The intent is to provide immediate safety and care of an unwanted newborn under certain conditions:
- The newborn was born within 72 hours of being left at the hospital (as determined within a reasonable degree of medical certainty).
- The newborn was unharmed.
- Any person who leaves a newborn in behalf of mother, has her permission to do so.
How do I place a newborn under the Safe Place for Newborns Program?
- When a woman has given birth to a newborn at home, with in 72 hours of birth, an unharmed newborn can be brought into the hospital (St. Cloud Hospital emergency room) and given to any hospital employee (wearing identification badge) on the premises.
- We will not inquire as to the identity of the mother or the person leaving the newborn.
- We will not call the police, provided the newborn is unharmed when presented at the hospital.
- We may ask the mother or the person leaving the newborn about the medical history of the mother or newborn, but they are not required to provide information.
- We may provide the mother or the person leaving the newborn with information about how to contact relevant social service agencies.
What happens to the newborn?
- Within 24 hours of receiving the newborn, the hospital must inform the local welfare agency that a newborn has been left at the hospital, but must not do so before the mother or the person leaving the newborn leaves the hospital.
- A hospital and any employee, doctor or other medical professional working at the hospital are immune from any criminal liability that otherwise might result from their actions, if they are acting in good faith in accepting a newborn, and are immune from any civil liability that otherwise might result from merely accepting a newborn.
- The county social service agency will obtain legal authority to place the newborn when discharged from the hospital.
- The county social service agency may refer the newborn for placement through a private agency or may take the necessary actions itself.
What if the mother who left her baby at a hospital under the Safe Place for Newborns Program changes her mind and asks that her child be returned to her?
If prior to finalization of the adoption, a person presents herself as the mother of a newborn abandoned under the Safe Place for newborns law and wants the child returned to her care, the county social services agency should assess the request for return of the child by verifying the person’s identity as the biological mother, assessing any safety issues in the home.
We hope that women will seek other options ahead of time for dealing with their unwanted pregnancy / newborn and utilize this option as the last resort.
There are available confidential resources that can assist women in their decisions:
- St. Cloud Hospital Emergency Department: 1-800-835-6652
- St. Cloud Hospital Social Workers
Emergency Room Social Worker: 320-251-2700, ext. 59119
Children’s Center Social Worker: 320-251-2700, ext. 59503
- Stearns County Social Services: 320-656-6000
- Crisis Nursery: 320-654-1090
- Birthline, Inc.: 320-252-4150
- United Way 2-1-1
- Safe Place for Newborns: 1-877-440-2229