Safe Haven Infant Program

Please note: The NJ Safe Haven Infant Program is administered by a NJ state agency. The Legislature appropriates monies yearly to fully fund this program. No private money is donated to this Program.

As of August, 2004, 18 precious babies have been saved who would have otherwise been abandoned or killed. NJRTL is proud to have led the effort to help enact this law. Although the NJ Safe Haven Infant Protection Act has been implemented and is in effect, NJRTL continues its work to ensure proper implementation by government agencies. It is crucial to monitor the process after a law is passed, said NJRTL Public & Legislative Affairs Director Marie Tasy.

NJRTL will continue to monitor public agencies charged with the new Safe Haven law and offer assistance, input and support for its successful implementation.

The NJ Safe Haven Infant Protection Act (SHIP) was passed and signed into law in the summer of 2000.

Why is the law necessary:

The purpose of the law is to save the lives of newborn babies who would otherwise be abandoned or left to die in unsafe environments. New Jersey and the nation experienced sorrow in the knowledge that newborn infants are sometimes abandoned in life-threatening situations and that some of these children have been harmed or have died as a consequence of their abandonment. New Jersey Right to Life worked with key legislators to draft the NJ Safe Haven Infant Protection Act after researching the matter and working with proponents in other states. The primary sponsors of the law were former Assembly Speaker Jack Collins and Senator Anthony Bucco. We recognized that anonymity, confidentiality and freedom from prosecution may encourage an emotionally distraught parent to leave an infant safely and save the life of both the mother and infant.

What does the law say:

In short, the law gives parents or their designees a way to drop off their unwanted infants younger than 30 days old, unharmed, at a safe place with no questions asked. In return, parents would avoid prosecution.

The specifics:

The law allows a parent to voluntarily deliver the child to and leave the child at, or voluntarily arrange for another person to deliver the child to and leave the child at a State, county or municipal police station or at an emergency department of a licensed general hospital in this State when the child is or appears to be no more than 30 days old, without expressing an intent to return for the child. The child must be delivered unharmed (no signs of abuse or neglect.) The parent or designee dropping off the child is not required to disclose any identifying information or that of the child or the child’s parent or provide background information or medical information about the child, but may voluntarily do so. If the child is not claimed within 21 days, then termination of parental rights will begin and the child will be placed in foster care temporarily until permanent placement for adoption can be arranged.

How can I get more information?

Call the toll free 24 hour Safe Haven Hotline at 1-877-839-2339


Safe Haven Act Signed Into Law
New Jersey Right to Life Leads Successful Effort

After several months of extensive lobbying and education by New Jersey Right to Life, acting Governor Jack Collins signed into law a bill designed to address the growing number of infanticide and baby abandonment cases in the state. On July 7th, 2000 New Jersey Right to Life and several other leading state legislators gathered for the bill signing ceremony at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Paterson. At least 20 newborns have been abandoned or killed in New Jersey since 1997, prompting New Jersey Right to Life to lead an effort to pass a law that allows an individual to drop off an infant at emergency rooms of licensed hospitals or police stations without threat of prosecution. The bill was unanimously passed by both houses of the State Legislature in June. Pro-Life Assembly Speaker Jack Collins signed the bill while serving as acting governor. Both Governor Christine Whitman and Senate President Donald DiFrancesco were out of state at the time. The laws went into effect on August 7th, 2000. It is designed to save the lives of newborn infants who would otherwise be abandoned in an unsafe environment, harmed, or killed. The bill seeks to prevent or curtail the types of infanticide cases that have gained national attention in recent years, many of which occurred in New Jersey. Under the proposed law, the child would be placed with potential adoptive parents as soon as possible. Adoption proceedings would be able to begin after 21 days. Mothers who take their newborns to a “safe haven” would not be subject to criminal prosecution for child abandonment. “We want individuals who, for whatever reason, believe they can’t care for their child, to feel comfortable bringing the child to a location where it can be properly cared for,” Assembly Speaker Collins said. “This is a pro-active, Pro-Life response to the infanticide crisis which has developed in recent years,” said NJRTL Public and Legislative Affairs Director Marie Tasy. “As the state’s Pro-Life organization, we will continue leading the fight to protect these innocent children” said NJRTL President Traude Barbiero.

Chronology of the Safe Haven Bill

January 2000 A newborn boy is found lying near Paterson railroad tracks. He later dies. This latest abandonment continues the shocking trend of recent years.

February 2000 A mother leaves her baby bundled in blankets in a car seat outside a department store parking lot. NJRTL begins researching state laws on baby abandonment and conferring with representatives from other states who passed similar laws. NJRTL researches cases of baby abandonment in NJ and elsewhere to ascertain patterns and consistencies in order to craft a bill that addresses these tragedies. NJRTL confers with the coordinator of Baby Moses Prjoect, an advocacy group that promotes similar legislation throughout the country. Assemblywoman Charlotte Vandervalk introduces a bill similar to the Texas law. It is not named and is lacking many important provisions. She notifies NJRTL that she has introduced the bill.
March 2000 NJRTL recommends that Pro-Life Assembly Speaker Jack Collins become the prime sponsor of a new, improved version of the bill. Likewise, NJRTL encourages pro-life Senator Anthony Bucco to become the prime sponsor. NJRTL suggests the bill be called the NJ Safe Haven Infant Protection Act (SHIP).
April 2000 A baby boy is found dead in the woods in Roselle, NJ. NJRTL begins working with Assembly Majority Staff to craft a new, improved bill.
NJRTL participates with Assembly Speaker Jack Collins in a press conference at the Statehouse announcing the introduction of the NJ Safe Haven Infant Protection Act. The Act is introduced in the Senate.
June 2000 A baby boy is found alive in Hopatcong, NJ, abandoned on the side of the road. A few days later, another baby is left on the porch of a church in Paterson, NJ. Assembly Health Committee and Senate Women’s Issues Committee hold hearings on the Act. NJRTL testifies on behalf of the Act. The Act passes unanimously in both committees. Assembly Appropriations Committee and Senate Appropriations Commmittee release the Act with unanimous support. On June 26th, Assembly passes the Act unanimously 79-0. Assemblywoman Carol Murphy is absent from the voting session. Senate adopts an amendment to the Act supported by NJRTL. On June 29th, Senate passes bill 39-0 with Senator Sharpe James, not voting. Assembly concurs 79-0, with one member, Carol Murphy, absent.
On July 9th, Governor Christine Whitman and Senate President Donald DiFrancesco are out of state, causing Assembly Speaker Jack Collins to become Acting Governor. Acting Governor Jack Collins signs the Safe Haven Infant Protection Act into law at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Paterson. NJRTL participates at the signing ceremony and speaks in support of the Act.