Sweeney Bill To Expand ‘Safe Haven’ Program Clears Senate Health, Human Services And Senior Citizens Committee

TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney which would expand the number of Safe Haven centers, and make Safe Haven program information available by dialing 2-1-1, a national exchange for human services information, was approved today by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee.

“According to statistics from the Department of Children and Families, since 2000 the lives of 33 babies have been saved with the help of the Safe Haven program,” said Senator Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem. “When a parent is unable or unwilling to care for a child, the chances that the child will be abused or neglected can only increase. This legislation is about saving our children from abandonment, abuse and neglect, and all of the physical and emotional damage that come along with those actions. By making the Safe Haven centers more accessible, we would be working to save lives.”

Senator Sweeney’s bill, S-184, would expand New Jersey’s Safe Haven program to allow newborns to be dropped off at fire stations, and first aid, ambulance and rescue squad headquarters that are staffed 24 hours a day. Under current legislation, Safe Haven sites are limited to hospital emergency rooms and police stations. All new locations would be required to register with the Department of Children and Families.

The bill would also allow Safe Haven information to be accessed through 2-1-1 call centers. Workers at the call centers would be responsible for providing information on Safe Haven procedures and locations, as well as other social services data.

Established in 2000, New Jersey’s Safe Haven program provides a place for parents who are unwilling or unable to care for their infants to anonymously give up custody of a baby who is less than 30 days old. The program requires that the baby be brought to a hospital emergency room or police station in New Jersey. If the child has no signs of intentional abuse, no other information is necessary from the parent or guardian who drops off the child.

This legislation now heads to the full Senate for a vote.

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