<< All News Tuesday, April 23, 2024 - 01:00 am

During April, we recognize National Child Abuse Prevention Month and the importance of communities working together to support and strengthen families and prevent child maltreatment. April has also been designated nationally as Baby Safe Haven Awareness Month, a time to recognize safe alternatives to infant abandonment by promoting Safe Haven laws.

North Dakota Health and Human Services (HHS) and its partners remind communities that parents can turn to approved Baby Safe Haven sites if they are unable to safely care for their baby.

North Dakota’s Baby Safe Haven law allows a parent or other adult who is acting with a parent’s consent to safely surrender a baby under one year of age without facing questions or prosecution. The law states that infants must be unharmed and given to an on-duty staff member at an approved safe haven location.

The goal is to keep babies safe and prevent them from being neglected and abandoned in unsafe situations. North Dakota is the only state that allows parents to safely surrender older infants up to one year of age.

North Dakota passed a Baby Safe Haven law in 2000. State lawmakers revised the law in 2019 to add other approved safe haven sites in addition to hospitals. Approved Baby Safe Haven sites in North Dakota include hospitals, local public health units, human service zone offices, law enforcement centers, HHS regional human service centers, long-term care skilled nursing facilities, children’s advocacy centers and 911 emergency medical services response units.

Parents who change their minds after leaving their baby at a Safe Haven site do have options and should contact the human service zone office in their area or call the Safe Haven hotline at 1-888-510-BABY (2229).

North Dakotans can find local child abuse prevention month activities, including parenting and infant care information, events, speakers, training and more at Prevent Child Abuse North Dakota website. Their website also includes Baby Safe Haven training.

In calendar year 2023, there were 909 children identified as victims of child maltreatment in North Dakota, with 21% of them being under one year of age. Extreme stress, unmet needs and uncertainty for families may increase the risk of child abuse and neglect.

HHS reminds individuals that if they suspect a child in North Dakota is being abused or neglected, they should call the statewide toll-free Child Abuse & Neglect Reporting Line at 1-833-958-3500. If it’s an emergency and a child is in immediate danger, call 911.

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