Blanca Espinoza talks to her 2-year-old in a blend of Spanish and English.
She's offering a motherly reminder on manners, which little Avelino grasps quickly, responding with the magic word: "Please."
This scene might not have happened without California's Safe Surrender law, which gives parents an alternative to abandoning their newborns. In 2006, Espinoza and her husband adopted Avelino, who was surrendered at a Fresno hospital.
State statistics show the number of surrendered babies has grown nearly every year since the law took effect in 2001.
But the program is suffering from neglect. A state audit last year questioned whether the law could be more effective and described it as virtually abandoned by the state.
Today, the program lacks stable funding, publicity and outspoken champions -- especially in the Valley.
So little attention is paid to the program that no one has reconciled conflicting state and county statistics, a Fresno Bee review has found. And in Fresno County, where seven babies have been given up and placed for adoption, local officials don't agree what places are officially designated as safe surrender sites.
Perhaps more seriously, statistics show that fewer babies are safely surrendered in Fresno County than in some smaller counties that give the program more publicity.
Catherine Huerta, director of the county's Children and Family Services, said the county needs to go through a formal process to designate sites. She also said the law deserves a more consistent publicity campaign.
"Do I think we could do more? I do," she said.
Susan Anderson, chairwoman of the Board of Supervisors and an adoptive mother, agreed more promotion is needed. But she added: "If a mother wants to find a safe place for their baby, there are plenty of people to help."
In September 2000, the state Legislature approved the law known as the "Safe Haven" or "Safely Surrendered Baby Law." The law allows parents to give up newborns at hospitals or other designated sites and face no criminal penalty for child abandonment.
The program became effective Jan. 1, 2001, and was set to expire Jan. 1, 2006, but lawmakers made it permanent.
When the concept was introduced in 2000, lawmakers were reacting to reports of abandoned babies found dead. The law -- similar to those in other states -- offered a safe, confidential alternative to parents who chose to give up an infant.
Parents can hand off a newborn at a hospital or other location -- such as a fire station -- designated by a county board of supervisors. Infants surrendered receive medical care and are placed by the county in a foster home or pre-adoptive home.
But the lack of statewide publicity, and state funding, has potentially eroded the law's effectiveness, according to the state audit of the program.
The audit also detailed a series of problems -- such as the collection of confidential information on a baby's parents and incorrect classifications of infants as safely surrendered or abandoned.
Today, state agencies have little responsibility for the program. The only statewide media campaign took place nearly six years ago.
State statistics suggest that despite the neglect, the law is making a difference. As the number of surrendered babies has grown, the number of those abandoned has generally declined.
Through 2008, according to the state, 280 babies have been safely surrendered. During the same time, 151 abandoned babies were found alive and at least 31 were found dead.
State officials say the death statistic is likely incomplete because all fatalities may not be reported to social services.