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Safe Haven Program - 2013

Resolution Number:100.41.39
Club:North Toronto

Background: A Safe Haven Program allows for the parents of an unwanted newborn to leave an unharmed baby in a safe designated location (usually a hospital), anonymously and without repercussion.
The intent of Safe Haven programming is two-fold:
1. To save the lives of our most vulnerable citizens, newborn babies.
2. To provide a parent(s), in a state of crisis, a better option for both their newborn and for themselves.
In Canada, it is estimated that roughly 3-5 babies per year are "reported" as having been found, abandoned. Some are found dead, some alive. Of greater concern is the number "not reported". The Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness suspects that this number is higher as some babies are never found, and the incidents never reported. In some cases there may be multiple abandonments by the same parent(s). At present infant abandonment may result in charges against the parent(s) responsible for infanticide or murder. With a Safe Haven Program, the results may be different for both the parents and their children.
As no Safe Haven laws or programming currently exist in Canada, such programs / legislation are required in every province. Currently in Canada, if a woman delivers in the hospital and simply walks out without the baby, she will not be prosecuted and the child will be cared for by the provincial Child Protection Agency and placed for adoption. Safe Haven is simply an extension of what already exists, but with a public awareness tag and anonymity option attached, so that parents in crisis are informed and aware that they have options other than abandonment.
One pilot location is currently operating at a downtown Vancouver Hospital. Since opening in early 2010, one baby has been received into the program. However in the fall of 2011, another abandoned baby was found floating on a log-boom in the Fraser River near Vancouver, by two tug-boat operators working the night-shift, pointing to the need for an awareness campaign, and multiple locations (i.e. every hospital).
In the United States, each state has enacted Safe Haven legislation. It is believed that approximately 1,000 newborns have been surrendered to Safe Haven programs in the last ten years. Similar programs exist in many European countries and other parts of the world. A goal of the Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness, is consistency in programming across Canada, i.e. consistent time frame for the parents to re-consider their decision and age of infants accepted through the program. While Child Protection is a provincial responsibility, Federal Justice Minister and Attorney General Rob Nicholson has spoken in favour of Safe Haven Programming. His staff has reviewed the Criminal Code of Canada and Minister Nicholson has confirmed that the Criminal Code would not require any amendments at the federal level to allow for Safe haven legislation to move forward in each province.
1. National Safe Haven Alliance (US).
2. Providence Health – Angel’s Cradle Program, Vancouver.

RESOLUTION: THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that BPW Ontario strongly urges the Government of Ontario, the Ministry of Children and Youth Services in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care to develop a provincial Safe Haven Strategy with supporting legislation;

AND FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that BPW Ontario urges the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services, to work with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, to ensure wide-spread awareness of the Safe Haven option through Ontario’s Schools and Health Care system;

AND FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that BPW Ontario urges the Ministry of Children and Youth Services to have current provincial laws amended so that parents who choose to surrender their unwanted newborn, unharmed, at a Safe Haven location will not face repercussions and will have time to reconsider their decision;

AND FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that BPW Ontario urges a physical location be designated in Ontario for a Safe Haven pilot project to allow for the implementation of this strategy in Ontario.


©BPW Ontario

Article ID: 4370