Infant Safe Haven Laws - South Carolina

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Infant's Age

Citation: Ann. Code § 63-7-40

An infant may be relinquished. The term 'infant' means a person who is no more than 60 days old.

Who May Relinquish the Infant

Citation: Ann. Code § 63-7-40

An infant may be voluntarily left at a safe haven by a person who does not express an intent to return for the infant and the circumstances give rise to a reasonable belief that the person does not intend to return for the infant.

Who May Receive the Infant

Citation: Ann. Code § 63-7-40

The infant may be left at a safe haven. The term 'safe haven' includes a hospital or hospital outpatient facility, a law enforcement agency, a fire station, an emergency medical services station, or any staffed house of worship during hours when the facility is staffed.

Responsibilities of the Safe Haven Provider

Citation: Ann. Code § 63-7-40

A safe haven provider must, without a court order, take temporary physical custody of an infant who is voluntarily left at the safe haven. If the safe haven is a hospital or hospital outpatient facility, the hospital or hospital facility shall perform any act necessary to protect the physical health or safety of the infant. Any other safe haven shall, as soon as possible but no later than 6 hours after receiving an infant, transport the infant to a hospital or hospital outpatient facility.

The safe haven provider must offer the person leaving the infant information concerning the legal effect of leaving the infant at the safe haven and ask the person to identify any parent of the infant other than the person leaving the infant at the safe haven. The safe haven provider also must attempt to obtain from the person information concerning the infant's background and medical history as specified on a form provided by the Department of Social Services. This information includes, but is not limited to, information concerning the use of a controlled substance by the infant's mother provided that information regarding the use of a controlled substance by the infant's mother is not admissible as evidence of the unlawful use of a controlled substance in any court proceeding.

The hospital or hospital outpatient facility shall notify the department that it has taken temporary physical custody of the infant no later than the close of the first business day after taking possession.

Immunity for the Provider

Citation: Ann. Code § 63-7-40

A safe haven and its agents and any health-care professionals practicing within a hospital or hospital outpatient facility are immune from civil or criminal liability for any action authorized by this section as long as the safe haven or health-care professional complies with all provisions of this section.

Protection for Relinquishing Parent

Citation: Ann. Code § 63-7-40

The person leaving the infant is not required to disclose his or her identity; however, the person must leave the infant in the physical custody of a staff member or employee of the safe haven. Any identifying information disclosed by the person leaving the infant must be kept confidential by the safe haven and disclosed to no one other than the department.

A person who leaves an infant at a safe haven or directs another person to do so must not be prosecuted for any criminal offense on account of such action if the following are true:

  • The person is a parent of the infant or is acting at the direction of a parent.
  • The person leaves the infant in the physical custody of a staff member or an employee of the safe haven.
  • The infant is not more than 60 days old, or the infant is reasonably determined by the hospital or hospital outpatient facility to be not more than 60 days old.

This subsection does not apply to prosecution for the infliction of any harm upon the infant other than the harm inherent in abandonment.

Effect on Parental Rights

Citation: Ann. Code § 63-7-40

The department has legal custody of the infant immediately upon receipt of the notice. The department shall assume physical control of the infant as soon as practicable but no later than 24 hours after receiving notice that the infant is ready for discharge from the hospital. The department is not required to initiate a child protective services investigation solely because an infant comes into its custody under this subsection.

Immediately after receiving notice, the department shall contact the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division for assistance in assuring that the infant is not a missing infant.

Within 48 hours after obtaining legal custody of the infant, the department shall file a petition alleging that the infant has been abandoned, that the court should dispense with reasonable efforts to preserve or reunify the family, and that termination of parental rights is in the best interests of the infant. A hearing on the petition must be held no earlier than 30 and no later than 60 days after the department takes legal custody of the infant.

The act of leaving an infant at a safe haven is conclusive evidence that the infant has been abused or neglected for purposes of Department of Social Services' jurisdiction and for evidentiary purposes in any judicial proceeding in which abuse or neglect of an infant is an issue. It is also conclusive evidence that the requirements for termination of parental rights have been satisfied as to any parent who left the infant or acted in concert with the person leaving the infant.