EDITORIAL: Let's raise efforts to avoid another Baby Rosie

FresnoSeptember 22, 2013 

It's time to increase public awareness in the Valley about the "safe surrender" law in California. It allows parents who are unable or unwilling to care for newborns to give them up within 72 hours of birth.

JENNIFER COATE — AP

Just the thought of an abandoned baby is enough to make your heart ache. When a newborn girl is found dead inside a cardboard box, complete strangers grieve.

So when Baby Rosie was laid to rest Wednesday in a donated white dress and casket, the two dozen mourners included the two Roseville city workers who discovered her while sweeping trash at a park after the July Fourth weekend, and the detective investigating her death.

Sadly, such cases are common enough that there's a nonprofit that works with local governments to give abandoned and unidentified babies proper burials. Garden of Innocence helped put on burials in Fresno last fall and this spring.

Baby Rosie is the latest reminder that these tragedies don't have to happen.

California, like all states, has a "safe surrender" law that allows parents who are unable or unwilling to care for newborns to give them up within 72 hours of birth. As long as the baby has not been abused or neglected, parents aren't prosecuted for child abandonment. While they are asked to fill out a medical questionnaire, they can remain anonymous.

All 58 counties have surrender sites, including hospitals and many fire stations. If the parents don't reclaim their baby within 14 days, the infant is put in foster care or made available for adoption. From January 2001, when the law took effect, through March 2013, 503 newborns were safely surrendered in California, according to state figures.

During that time, 12 babies have been safely surrendered in Fresno County, two in Madera County and one in Tulare County. Kings County has yet to have receive its first safely surrendered baby.

Too often, unwanted newborns are found dead. Clearly, the word isn't getting out to all the parents who are in crisis.

Public awareness efforts were more aggressive early on, though in 2010 the state launched a toll-free hotline and put a voluntary donation on income tax forms to fund outreach. Anything more that social service agencies, nonprofits and churches can do to raise awareness could help save lives.

The hotline number for Kings, Madera and Tulare counties is 1-877-222-9723.

Fresno County residents can dial 211 for the location of safe surrender sites.

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