Infant Safe Haven Laws - California

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Infant's Age

Citation: Penal Code § 271.5

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

Who May Relinquish the Infant

Citation: 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

Citation: Penal Code § 271.5; Health & Safety Code § 1255.7

A child may be left at a safe-surrender site that includes any of the following:

  • A location designated by the board of supervisors of a county or by a local fire agency, upon the approval of the appropriate local governing body of the agency, to be responsible for accepting physical custody of a child
  • A location within a public or private hospital that is designated by that hospital to be a safe-surrender site

Before designating a location as a safe-surrender site, the designating entity shall consult with the governing body of a city, if the site is within the city limits, and with representatives of a fire department and a child welfare agency that may provide services to a child who is surrendered at the site, if that location is selected.

A hospital and a safe-surrender site designated by the county board of supervisors or by a local fire agency, upon the approval of the appropriate local governing body of the agency, shall post a sign displaying a statewide logo that has been adopted by the State Department of Social Services that notifies the public of the location where a child may be safely surrendered.

Responsibilities of the Safe Haven Provider

Citation: 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 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 are 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

Citation: Health & Safety Code § 1255.7

A safe-surrender site, or the personnel of a safe-surrender site, shall not have liability of any kind for a surrendered child prior to taking actual physical custody of the child. A safe-surrender site, or personnel of the safe-surrender site, 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 by this section, 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. A safe-surrender site, or the personnel of a safe-surrender site, shall not be subject to civil, criminal, or administrative liability for a surrendered child prior to the time that the site or its personnel know, or should know, that the child has been surrendered. 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

Citation: 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

Citation: 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.