AUSTIN - After a newborn baby girl was found in a dumpster early Wednesday morning, eyes are turning to the State of Texas' Safe Haven Law.
According to the law, a baby that is up to 60 days old can be legally left with an employee on duty at any hospital, emergency infant care provider or child welfare agency in Texas.
However, in Wednesday's case, witnesses say the baby girl was left in a dumpster with her umbilical cord still attached. Police said they responded to the Austin apartment complex around 6:55 a.m., found the child and EMS took her to a local hospital.
After KVUE shared the story on social media, viewers were quick to bring attention to the law, which could have been an option for the baby girl's parent.
The law defines an "emergency infant care provider" as an emergency medical services provider, a hospital, or a child-placing agency licensed by the Department of Protective and Regulatory Services. The law states these designated providers shall, without a court order, take possession of the child if the child is voluntarily delivered to the provider by the child's parent and the parent did not express an intent to return for the child.
This designated care provider has no legal duty to detain or pursue the parent and may not do so unless the child appears to have been abused or neglected. The provider also has no legal duty to ascertain the parent's identity and the parent may remain anonymous. In some cases, the parent may be given a form for voluntary disclosure of the child's medical facts and history, the law states.
By law, the care provider is required to perform any act necessary to protect the physical health or safety of the child. The provider is not liable for damages related to the provider's taking possession of, examining, or treating the child, except for damages related to the provider's negligence.
No later than the close of the first business day following the date on which the provider takes possession of the child, the provider is required to notify the DPRS that they have done so, and the department must assume the care, control and custody of the child immediately.
The law states the DPRS must then report the child to appropriate state and local law enforcement agencies as a potential missing child. The department shall also reimburse the designated emergency infant care provider that treated the child.
More information on the law, including confidentiality rules, can be found here.
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