On Thanksgiving Day, the Wantagh Fire Department took a newborn infant – named Baby Girl Hope - into its station for placement under New York State’s Abandonment Infant Protection Act, also known as the Safe Haven law. The law allows for a parent to safely bring a newborn baby up to 30 days of age to a suitable location without fear of criminal prosecution as long as the baby has not been harmed. The law further states that Safe Haven babies enter the local Department of Social Services’ child welfare program. Once the baby is freed for adoption, the certified foster family can become the adoptive parents.
County Executive Mangano stated, “the Nassau County Department of Social Services (DSS) certifies foster and adoptive families, also referred to as resource families. Foster families take children into their home with the understanding that the placements may be temporary as DSS is required to determine if reunification with their parents/birth families is possible. When this is not possible, the Department looks to the foster parent(s) to become the adoptive resource.”
Some families come to DSS with an interest in adoption and not foster care. When children in foster care become freed, very often their foster parents become the adoptive family. It is required that the child’s foster parents be considered first and foremost. In Safe Haven situations, usually the parent that brings her child to a safe place does so with the plan to permanently relinquish their relationship with that child. In those cases DSS looks to place Safe Haven babies with certified DSS resource families who have a strong adoptive interest.
Prospective adoptive families are also informed that a birth parent can come forward and ask for the return on the abandoned infant. Therefore, under New York State law reunification with birth parents is still possible even after a baby has been abandoned.
DSS has received hundreds of calls from people interested in being adoptive parents for Baby Girl Hope. The Department is exploring waiting and certified Nassau County DSS families who are interested in Safe Haven babies and, from those waiting parents one will be selected for Baby Girl Hope.
The story of Baby Girl Hope has also prompted County Executive Mangano to issue a call to residents interested in serving as foster and adoptive families to contact DSS and register for the MAPP Program (Modified Approach to Partnership in Parenting), one of New York State’s requirements for being considered as a Foster and Adoptive Family, as well as having a background check and a home assessment. As noted by Mangano, “Becoming a foster and adoptive family can be such a rewarding experience and gives infants and older children the opportunity to become part of a Forever Family.”
Anyone interested in becoming a Foster and Adoptive Family should call DSS staff Judith Josefsberg (227-8284) or Alison Hawley (227-8291).