Infant Safe Haven Laws - District of Columbia

Date: September 2021

Infant's Age

Citation: Ann. Code § 4-1451.01

A newborn may be surrendered. The term 'newborn' means an infant whose parent refuses or is unable to assume the responsibility for the infant's care, control, and subsistence; who is surrendered by that parent; and who a licensed physician or other person authorized to accept the surrender reasonably believes is 14 days old or younger.

Who May Relinquish the Infant

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 4-1451.01; 4-1451.02

Except when there is actual or suspected child abuse or neglect, a custodial parent who is a resident of the District of Columbia may surrender a newborn in accordance with this chapter.

The term 'surrender' means to bring a newborn to an authorized receiving facility during its hours of operation and to leave the newborn with personnel of the facility.

Who May Receive the Infant

Citation: Ann. Code § 4-1451.01

An authorized receiving facility, including a hospital or other place authorized by the mayor, may accept a newborn for surrender pursuant to this chapter.

Responsibilities of the Safe Haven Provider

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 4-1451.02; 4-1451.04

The authorized receiving facility personnel receiving the surrendered newborn shall make a reasonable effort to obtain family and medical history from the surrendering parent, including personal information about both of the parents' identities, and shall provide to the surrendering parent information on adoption and counseling services.

Facility personnel receiving the surrender of a newborn shall file a written statement with the Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) on or before the time CFSA assumes physical custody of the newborn, which shall include the following information:

  • Date and time of the surrender
  • Circumstances of the surrender
  • Personal information obtained, if any

After the surrender of a newborn, an authorized receiving facility that is not a hospital shall transport the newborn to the nearest hospital as soon as transportation can be arranged.

The act of surrender shall constitute implied consent for the hospital to which the newborn is surrendered or transported and the hospital's medical personnel to treat and provide care for the newborn and arrange for further placement with CFSA and, through CFSA, with a preadoptive home, whenever possible.

Hospital personnel shall immediately contact CFSA to report the surrender of the newborn and arrange for transport of the newborn to CFSA. CFSA shall assume physical custody of the newborn within 23 hours of the surrender.

Immunity for the Provider

Citation: Ann. Code § 4-1451.06

An authorized receiving facility and the personnel of the facility shall be immune from civil or criminal liability for the good-faith performance of the reporting and placement responsibilities under this chapter, including liability for the failure to file a report that might otherwise be incurred or imposed on a person required to report suspected incidents of child abuse or neglect under § 4-1321.02.

In any civil or criminal proceeding brought under this chapter concerning the surrender of a newborn, good faith shall be presumed unless rebutted.

Protection for Relinquishing Parent

Citation: Ann. Code § 4-1451.02

The relinquishing parent shall have the right to remain anonymous and to leave the place of surrender at any time. The parent shall not be pursued by any person at the time of surrender or prosecuted for the surrender of the newborn.

The surrender of a newborn in accordance with this chapter, and rules promulgated pursuant to this chapter, shall not, by itself, constitute a basis for a finding of abuse, neglect, or abandonment.

Effect on Parental Rights

Citation: Ann. Code § 4-1451.05

A relinquishment of parental rights shall take place upon surrender. Upon CFSA's receipt of the statement required by § 4-1451.02(d) and assuming physical custody, CFSA shall assume immediate care, custody, and control of the surrendered newborn.

A relinquishment of parental rights under this chapter may be revoked and parental rights restored in accordance with § 4-1406(c)-(d) provided that the following conditions are met:

  • The parent agrees to genetic testing to establish maternity or paternity.
  • The genetic test establishes that the surrendering parent is the biological parent of the newborn.
  • A risk assessment is conducted to determine if further investigation is necessary or if the family needs to be referred for support services and is so referred.

No later than 90 days after surrender, CFSA shall attempt to identify, locate, and notify the nonsurrendering parent by performing a missing-child search and publishing notice of the surrender of the newborn. The notice shall include the statement that the nonsurrendering parent's failure to notify CFSA, or other contact as set forth in the notice, of the intent to exercise his or her parental rights and responsibilities within 20 days of publication of the notice shall be deemed to be the nonsurrendering parent's irrevocable consent to the termination of all parental rights and his or her irrevocable waiver of any right to notice of, or opportunity to participate in, any termination of parental rights proceeding involving the surrendered newborn.

The court may grant a petition for adoption without consent following relinquishment of parental rights and the termination of parental rights pursuant to this section and § 16-304(g).