Mother leaves baby at Piedmont Medical Center

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comJuly 15, 2013 

A crying mother walked into Piedmont Medical Center last week and left without her 2-month-old baby boy, apparently abandoning the infant after telling hospital officials she could no longer care for him, according to police.

About 6:30 p.m. Thursday, the woman, whose age is unknown, went to the hospital’s labor and delivery department and handed her infant son to a hospital staff member, according to a Rock Hill Police report.

She told staff she could no longer provide for him and gave him up, citing Daniel’s Law, a state provision that protects anyone who abandons a child at a safe haven against prosecution, the report states.

There were no signs of neglect or abuse on the infant, the report states.

According to a registered nurse, the mother was crying and appeared “visibly upset.”

Hospital staff notified the York County Department of Social Services, which then contacted police. Police placed the boy into emergency protective custody, giving DSS legal custody of the child, police said. He will be placed with a foster family.

A second police report released Monday states that doctors examined the boy, called “Baby Boy Doe,” and determined he was likely born on May 1 this year, the report states.

Amy Faulkenberry, hospital spokeswoman, said doctors can use bone scans to determine a child’s age.

By Monday evening, police had been unable to find the mother, said Lt. Brad Redfearn with the Rock Hill Police Department.

Daniel’s Law does not protect a person who abandons a child more than 30 days old.

But just because the child might have been older than a month does not mean police will automatically charge the mother, Redfearn said.

An accurate age for the child is still unknown because police have received several different estimates, Redfearn said.

Hospital officials initially said the child was 6 weeks old but late Friday said he was more than 2 months old.

Police are “unsure if the child meets” the Daniel’s Law statute, and authorities will be unsure of his age until they find the infant’s mother, Redfearn said.

“Baby Boy Doe” is the third child to be left at the hospital under Daniel’s Law within the past 10 years, Faulkenberry said.

Security and nursing staff at each hospital entrance are trained to “accept the child” and “immediately assess for a medical condition,” she said.

“Our immediate concern is the health and well-being of the child,” she said.

Statewide, 20 children meeting the Daniel’s Law regulations have been turned in to safe havens, said Kathleen Goetzman, public information coordinator with DSS.

Guidelines for Daniel’s Law, passed in 2000 after an abandoned baby was found buried alive in a landfill, require hospitals to perform physical exams on the child and then contact the appropriate state DSS office. The law will not grant immunity from prosecution if the child has been harmed in any way.

How Daniel’s Law works

People leaving a child, whether they are parents, family members or friends, do not have to disclose their names.

If someone leaves a child at a hospital, staff try to get as much information about the parent’s medical history as possible, Goetzman said. “If you don’t get that information from the mother or the person bringing (the child) in, where are you going to get it?” she said.

Safe havens include a hospital or hospital outpatient facility, law enforcement agencies, fire stations, emergency medical stations and a staffed church, synagogue or temple.

If children are left at police or fire stations, law enforcement can take the child to the hospital or DSS and the person who leaves the child can remain anonymous, Goetzman said.

“Any time you’re in an adopted situation, how it’s presented to the child is, ‘The mom was wanting a better life for you than what she could do,’ ” said Sue Williams, executive director for the Children’s Trust, a nonprofit organization in Columbia aiming to prevent child abuse, injury or neglect.

“It’s not exactly leaving the baby on the side of the road,” she said. “(The mother) took the effort to take the child to the hospital and knew about Daniel’s Law and knew the child would be provided for. That’s a different spin than saying your mother didn’t care for you.”

Turning a child over to a hospital, or any other approved safe haven, is a more responsible alternative to “leaving the baby anywhere and walking away,” she said.

Jonathan McFadden •  803-329-4082

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