Infant Safe Haven Laws - Tennessee

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Infant's Age

Citation: Ann. Code § 68-11-255

An infant who is age 2 weeks or younger may be relinquished.

Who May Relinquish the Infant

Citation: Ann. Code § 68-11-255

The infant may be relinquished by his or her mother.

Who May Receive the Infant

Citation: Ann. Code § 68-11-255

Any facility shall receive possession of any newborn infant left on facility premises with any facility employee or member of the professional medical community if the following applies to the infant:

  • Was born within the preceding 2 weeks, as determined within a reasonable degree of medical certainty
  • Is left in an unharmed condition
  • Is voluntarily left by a person who purports to be the child's mother and who does not express an intention of returning for the infant

The term 'facility' means any hospital, birthing center, community health clinic, outpatient walk-in clinic, fire department that is staffed 24 hours a day, law enforcement facility that is staffed 24 hours a day, or emergency medical services facility.

Responsibilities of the Safe Haven Provider

Citation: Ann. Code § 68-11-255

The facility, any facility employee, and any member of the professional medical community at such facility shall inquire, whenever possible, about the medical history of the mother or newborn and, whenever possible, shall seek the identity of the mother, infant, or the father of the infant. The facility shall also inform the mother that she is not required to respond but that the information will facilitate the adoption of the child.

The facility may provide the parent with contact information regarding relevant social services agencies; shall provide the mother with the name, address, and phone number of the department contact person; and shall encourage the mother to involve the Department of Children's Services in the relinquishment of the infant. If practicable, the facility shall also provide the mother with both orally delivered and written information concerning the requirements of this section, § 36-1-142, and § 36-2-318 (putative father registry) relating to recovery of the child and abandonment of the child.

The facility, any facility employee, and any member of the professional medical community at the facility shall perform any act necessary to protect the physical health and safety of the child.

As soon as reasonably possible, and no later than 24 hours after receiving a newborn infant, the facility shall contact the Department of Children's Services but shall not do so before the mother leaves the facility. Upon receipt of notification, the department shall immediately assume care, custody, and control of the infant.

Immunity for the Provider

Citation: Ann. Code § 68-11-255

Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, any facility, any facility employee, and any member of the professional medical community shall be immune from any criminal or civil liability for damages as a result of any actions taken pursuant to the requirements of this section and § 36-1-142, and no lawsuit shall be predicated thereon. However, nothing in this section and § 36-1-142 shall be construed to abrogate any existing standard of care for medical treatment or to preclude a cause of action based upon violation of such existing standard of care for medical treatment.

Protection for Relinquishing Parent

Citation: Ann. Code § 68-11-255

Any information obtained concerning the identity of the mother, infant, or other parent shall be kept confidential and may only be disclosed to the department for use consistent with the purposes of this section, § 36-1-142, and § 36-2-318.

No criminal prosecution shall be based upon a mother's act of voluntarily delivering her unharmed infant at a facility pursuant to this section if the mother acts in full compliance with this section.

Effect on Parental Rights

Citation: Ann. Code § 36-1-142

Failure of the mother to visit or seek contact with the infant for 30 days after the date of relinquishment and failure to seek contact with the infant through the department or to revoke the voluntary delivery within 30 days after notice was given, which shall cumulatively be no less than 90 days after the child was relinquished, shall be a basis for termination of parental rights.

A mother who voluntarily delivers an infant may revoke such voluntary delivery by applying to the court no later than 30 days after notice was given. After 30 days, no voluntary delivery shall be set aside except upon clear and convincing evidence of duress, fraud, or intentional misrepresentation.

Within 10 days of receipt of an infant, the department shall give notice once a week for 4 consecutive weeks in a newspaper where the voluntary delivery occurred. The notice shall include information to inform the putative father how to claim paternity and the mother how to revoke voluntary delivery. The notice shall specify that failure to seek contact with the infant through the department or to revoke the voluntary delivery within 30 days of the last publication of notice shall constitute abandonment of the infant and of the mother's interest.

The notice shall specify that any father who fails to claim paternity by contacting the department or registering with the putative father registry within 30 days of the last publication shall be barred from thereafter bringing any action to establish paternity of the infant. It shall also specify that such failure shall constitute abandonment of any right to notice of, or to participate in, any judicial proceeding for the adoption of such infant, and that consent of such putative father shall not be required for adoption of the infant.