Infant safe haven expansion measure advances in Assembly
New Jersey's safe havens for newborns would include firehouses and emergency first aid squad headquarters, if a measure sponsored by shore Assemblywomen Mary Pat Angelini (R-11) and Donna Simon (R-16) becomes law.
The lower house's Women and Children Committee approved the Republican's bill, A-4149, which was combined with an already-approved state Senate version. Program expansion became a front-burner issue in January, after a baby was burned to death in Pemberton. Her 22-year-old mother was charged with setting the fire.
"The goal is to prevent the further loss of innocent lives," Angelini said in a prepared statement. "This no-questions-asked approach has helped many parents who see themselves as unable to care for their newborns find an alternative that doesn't endanger their children. No mother should feel so desperate with no place to turn."
"The terrible tragedy in Pemberton reinforces the need to make mothers aware that there are multiple options for leaving an infant in a place where they will receive proper care," Simon said. "Expanding the number of authorized facilities increases the chances that a child's life will be saved. Our goal is to protect babies who would otherwise be abandoned or abused."
According to state officials, at least 60 infants of parents in crisis have been harbored since the Safe Haven Infant Protection Act was signed in 2000. The Department of Children and Families says that in the same time frame, illegal child abandonments have decreased by 60 percent.