Infant Safe Haven Laws - Montana

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Infant's Age

Citation: Ann. Code § 40-6-402

A newborn infant may be surrendered under this act. The term 'newborn' means an infant whom a physician reasonably believes to be no more than 30 days old.

Who May Relinquish the Infant

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 40-6-402; 40-6-405

A parent may surrender the child. The term 'surrender' means to leave a newborn with an emergency services provider without expressing an intent to return for the newborn.

Who May Receive the Infant

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 40-6-402; 40-6-405

The child may be surrendered to an emergency services provider, including the following:

  • A uniformed or otherwise identifiable employee of a fire department, hospital, or law enforcement agency, when the individual is on duty inside the premises of the fire department, hospital, or law enforcement agency
  • Any law enforcement officer who is in uniform or is otherwise identifiable

Responsibilities of the Safe Haven Provider

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 40-6-405; 40-6-406

The emergency services provider shall, without a court order, immediately take the newborn into temporary protective custody and shall take actions necessary to protect the physical health and safety of the newborn. The emergency services provider shall make a reasonable effort to do all the following:

  • Inform the parent that by surrendering the newborn, he or she is releasing the newborn to be placed for adoption
  • Inform the parent that he or she has 60 days to petition the court to regain custody of the newborn
  • Encourage the parent to provide any relevant family or medical information, including information regarding any Tribal affiliation
  • Provide the parent with information about counseling or medical attention
  • Ask the parent for the parent's name
  • Inform the parent that the State is required to make a reasonable attempt to identify the other parent and to obtain relevant medical family history and then ask the parent to identify the other parent
  • Inform the parent that the department can provide confidential services to the parent
  • Inform the parent that the parent may sign a relinquishment for the newborn to be used at a hearing to terminate parental rights

An emergency services provider that is not a hospital shall transfer the newborn to a hospital. A hospital that takes a newborn into temporary protective custody must have the newborn examined by a physician. If a physician who examines the newborn either determines that there is reason to suspect the newborn has experienced abuse or neglect, other than being surrendered to an emergency services provider, or that the infant is not a newborn, the physician shall immediately report to the Department of Public Health and Human Services.

The hospital shall, no later than the first business day after taking possession of the newborn, notify the department that the hospital has taken a newborn into temporary protective custody.

Immunity for the Provider

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 40-6-403; 40-6-404

A hospital and the agents and employees of the hospital are immune in a civil action for damages for an act or omission in accepting or transferring a newborn under this part, except for an act or omission constituting gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct.

A fire department or law enforcement agency and the agents and employees of a fire department or law enforcement agency are immune in a civil action for damages for an act or omission in accepting or transferring a newborn under this part, except for an act or omission constituting gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct.

Protection for Relinquishing Parent

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 40-6-405; 40-6-417

Information that the parent provides to an emergency services provider will not be made public.

A criminal investigation may not be initiated solely on the basis of a newborn being surrendered to an emergency services provider in the absence of reasonable suspicion of actual abuse or neglect. Except when there is intentional infliction of injury to the abandoned infant, a criminal prosecution may not be initiated involving the abandonment of an infant that was no more than 30 days old and was surrendered to an emergency services provider.

Effect on Parental Rights

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 40-6-405; 40-6-407; 40-6-411; 40-6-412; 40-6-414

Any Indian heritage brings the newborn within the jurisdiction of the Indian Child Welfare Act.

Upon receipt of notice that a newborn has been surrendered, the department shall do the following:

  • Request assistance from law enforcement officials to investigate and determine whether the newborn is a missing child
  • Make reasonable efforts to identify and locate a parent who did not surrender the newborn within 30 days

The department is not required to attempt to reunify the newborn with the newborn's parents. The department shall place the newborn with prospective adoptive parents as soon as possible.

Any person alleging to be the biological parent of a newborn who was surrendered to an emergency services provider may, within 60 days of the date of surrender of the newborn, file an action with the court for custody. Before making a custody decision, the court shall determine whether the individual filing the custody action is the newborn's biological parent. The putative father registry provisions apply to any court proceeding under this part.

In a custody action, the court shall determine custody of the newborn based on the newborn's best interests with the goal of achieving permanent placement for the newborn at the earliest possible date.

A parent who surrenders a newborn and who does not file a custody action is presumed to have knowingly waived the parent's parental rights to the newborn. If a custody action is not filed or if the parent is denied custody of the newborn, the department shall file a petition requesting appropriate relief with the goal of achieving permanent placement for the newborn at the earliest possible date.