My internship is being done at the Orangeburg County Department of Social Services (DSS). The policy I will be referring to in this policy paper will be section 20-7-85, which is the safe haven for abandoned babies act. This act is better known by the name of Daniel’s Law. Daniel’s Law is relatively new policy at DSS and new law in South Carolina; it’s designed to provide a safe haven for abandoned babies. Its name derives from a nurse whom cared for an infant boy, that she named “Daniel,” as he recovered in the hospital.
Daniel survived after being buried in a landfill soon after birth. Similar to Daniel, other babies are born to women in calamity. Some of these babies are left alone, abandoned by mothers who don’t plan to return or provide for their care. Although abandoned babies have always been an issue in this country, states have criminal and child abuse laws to address it, this growing concern seems to branch from the realization that despite the existing legal framework that do prohibit leaving a baby unprotected and unsupervised, babies are still being abandoned and harmed and many even die.
Beliefs are that this law is intended to save babies. It is not intended to hurt or punish anyone. It provides a safe option for mother and baby. This intent is to give parents an avenue to safely turn over their child to a third party, and that third party in turn turns it over to DSS in that County. Between 1999 and July 2001, 34 states, including South Carolina, passed “safe haven” laws. The legislation varies from state to state, but all have similar elements. South Carolina’s law, effective June 6, 2000 named it “Daniel’s law” after the fore mentioned case.
The policy/law only applies to infant up to 30 days old. The policy states clearly that a person who abandons a newborn cannot be prosecuted for abandonment if he or she takes the unharmed infant to an employee at a hospital or hospital outpatient facility, the person leaving the child does not have to reveal his or her identity, the person leaving this child will be asked to provide medical information about the baby’s parents, and if possible the name of the baby’s parents.
This will help the medical personnel treat the baby for any health problems and give information concerning the infant’s background and medical history. This information is recorded on a form provided by DSS. The hospital will provide medical care and contact DSS and DSS will have legal custody of the child. The policy/law states the act of leaving and infant with a hospital or hospital outpatient facility pursuant to this section is conclusive evidence that the infant has been abuse and neglected for purposes of DSS’s jurisdiction and for evidentiary purposes in any judicial proceeding in which abuse and 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 ant parent who left the infant or acted in concert with the person leaving the infant. What make this policy different from the other laws against child abuse and neglect is because the person, who leaves an infant at a hospital or hospital outpatient facility or directs another person to do so, must not be prosecuted for any criminal offense on account of such action if it is due in according to policy.
This law does not discriminate; it applies to any and every female from any walk of life. Any female doesn’t have to think now that her only alterative is to leave the baby to die in a toilet or trash can, or abandon it where she thinks it’s likely to be found before it dies. Although some individuals and organizations have expressed apprehension about the adoption process being jeopardized because of a lack of medical history and concern about the law condones irresponsible behavior by allowing parents to dispose of their children. In a report from the Evan B.
Donaldson Adoption Institute (www. adoptioninstitute. org) suggest these laws may exacerbate infant abandonment by encouraging women who may have otherwise chosen an adoption ok kinship plan. The report also argues that safe haven laws enable individuals with no legal rights to abandon babies without the mother’s consent and deprive biological fathers of their legal right to care for their children. Society may view these women as being heartless, brainless, mental challenged or even criminals. But contrary, these women are brave, caring, unselfish, smart, loving and responsible.
It can by no way be easier for them to face someone by handing the infant over than to just leave them and hope they are found or may never to be found. This policy supports social work values, ethics, and social justice concerns because in this professional arena, it is “In the best interest of the child” and if the mother does not feel she is capable of providing or wanting the child; it is indeed in the best interest of the child to leave the it in this manner than to abandon it in any other unsafe environment.
Common social work values include promotion of client well being and individual dignity, self-determination, the right to have basic needs met, and client empowerment. Ethics involve principles that specify what is good and bad. It’s all about choices either way and if it’s what the mother feels is best for the present time, than that is her values and ethics and according to the NASW, the six core values includes 1. Services and this policy offer help and resources. 2. Social justice in where every member of society has the same basic rights, protection, opportunities, obligations, and social benefits.
3. Dignity and worth of the person, it holds the mother in high esteem to feel she made the best choice. 4. Importance of human relationships, 5. Integrity, and 6. Competence. Social workers always have an ethical responsibility to their clients and to the broader society. 1. 01 is about commitment to clients, 1. 02 self determination states that each individual has the right to make their own decisions, 1. 03 informed consent is stated clearly in “Daniel’s law” and is reinforced upon the receiving of the infant, 1. 07 privacy and confidentiality is strictly stated and applied, and 4.
02 discrimination is never condone. Social workers are to promote 6. 01 social welfare of society; from local to global levels. There is two things needed to be changed about this policy and that is the age requirements of the infant and the location that the infant may be left. The policy need to increase the age because yes just as abandonment occurs in infants it also is very prevalent in toddlers. Let’s take for example the Susan Smith case, if she had the same opportunity and protection of the law then she may have taken them to a safe haven instead of drowning them.
Maybe a lot of the past and present child abuse and neglect cases would not be as prevalent and children could be saved from the hands of their abusers. The person should also be allowed to take the infant anywhere safe not just a hospital or hospital outpatient facility. Since this is a policy of DSS, I don’t see why the infant could not be a least allow to be left there. If someone brings their baby to the office or take it to a church, they would have to be turned away or should I say redirected to a hospital; who’s to say they would go and what might happen to the infant.
As long as the infant is left in a safe environment the same protection of the law should apply. From researching which policy I wanted to do my paper on as well as familiarizing myself with the policies and procedures of my placement. I learned that the effects of policies on families and service delivery are very important because it is not the government who implement policies it is everyday people like the nurses who cared for Daniel, parents who have lost their child to a drunk drivers (MADD), and most importantly Social Workers; by the way that is soon to be me.
Individuals and families needs someone to seek justice for their equality and rights. As a generalist practitioner one has to advocate for clients to prove the need for some service and to succeed in making that service available to people who really needs it. The GIM emphasizes that the potential to make improvements in agencies, organizations, and systems should never be forgotten as one means of effecting positive change for clients and non clients alike. A difference could be made available to American families if policies geared towards family were improved.
It is my duty to seek the social justice of all my clients by using all available resources including lobbying and taking advantage of any opportunities to implement, enforce, and change policy for the empowerment of all who can benefit from the change. Daniel’s law is a policy that provides clients the opportunity to give infants under 30 days old a safe haven and keeps the mother from being prosecuted by the law. This is in hope of saving the lives of abandoned, abuse, and/or neglected babies. It would be to the advantage of the intended population if the age statue and drop off points could be broadened.