Last Updated on May 20, 2003 by Paulette Brown-Hinds

California state officials today launched a new phase of a major public awareness campaign in a push to increase awareness among Californians of the state’s Safely Surrendered Baby (SSB) law.

“Every child deserves a chance for a healthy life,” California Department of Social Services Director Rita Saenz said. “The public awareness campaign we are unveiling today will help us further communicate this vital message: No matter how desperate the situation, a desperate mother can surrender her baby into safe arms without fear of criminal prosecution.”

California’s SSB law, signed by Governor Gray Davis in 2000, allows a parent or person with lawful custody to safely surrender their newborn infant within the first 72 hours after birth to any California hospital emergency room or other designated Safe Haven location without the threat of prosecution for child abandonment.

Thirty-second television spots note that because of the SSB law, “California has a way to protect infants from the dangers of being abandoned.” Desperate mothers are informed that “now there’s a way to safely surrender your baby. No names are required. No shame. No blame. No names.”

Ads are being reinforced by a public outreach effort that will include educating women of childbearing age about the law via statewide media, school curriculum, community-based organizations, businesses and locally-launched campaigns.

First 5 San Bernardino has partnered with the Department of Public Health, Children’s Network, Children’s Fund and the Department of Children Services to inform and educate the public about the Safely Surrendered Baby Law on a local level.

“Together with our schools, churches, community groups and other agencies, First 5 San Bernardino is working hard to make these mothers, facing the most important decision that they will ever make, aware of their options. Hopefully, we will be able to save the lives of as many babies as possible and, with her making the right decision, also provide a future for both the baby and the mother,” said Don Larkin, Executive Director for the First 5 program.

Brochures and posters have been distributed through the Child Health Disability and Prevention program with 180 clinics throughout the county as well as to community organizations, shopping malls and other public places. An agreement with the Superintendent of Schools to distribute the materials to all 98 high schools is also underway. The materials include information about the law as well as the names and contact information of hospitals in San Bernardino County where parents can safely surrender their babies.

To date, 42 states have passed “safe haven” laws, including California. But beyond California, very few have earmarked funds for public awareness campaigns to educate teens and women of childbearing age about the safe options available to them. Since the law took effect in 2001, twenty-two babies have been safely surrendered in California.

To request copies of information materials, please contact First 5 San Bernardino at 909.386.7706.