Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


Advertisement
Email Newsletter

Sign up to receive our email newsletter in your inbox.



Advertisement

Advertisement
‘You know absolutely nothing’: Students frustrated with NU’s handling of academic integrity cases
NU’s Summer Class Schedule offers flexibility, opportunities for academic advancement
Community awards, advocacy headline Evanston’s fifth annual Juneteenth parade
Race Against Hate: Ricky Byrdsong’s Legacy
The Week Ahead, June 17-23: Juneteenth, Summer Solstice and Pride Celebrations in Chicagoland
Evanston Environment Board drops fossil fuels divestment, recommends updates to leaf blower ordinance
Derrick Gragg appointed as Northwestern’s vice president for athletic strategy, search for new athletic director begins
Advertisement
Perry: A little humility goes a long way

Brew, Hou, Leung, Pandey: On being scared to tweet and the pressure to market yourself as a student journalist

June 4, 2024

Haner: A love letter to the multimedia room

June 4, 2024

Derrick Gragg appointed as Northwestern’s vice president for athletic strategy, search for new athletic director begins

Lacrosse: Northwestern’s Izzy Scane wins 2024 Honda Sport Award

June 13, 2024

Lacrosse: Northwestern’s Izzy Scane wins 2024 Tewaaraton Award

May 30, 2024

Advertisement

The secret (and short) lives of cicadas on campus

NU Declassified: Prof. Barbara Butts teaches leadership through stage management

Everything Evanston: Behind the boba in downtown Evanston

Safe havens’ for abandoned infants underuse

Dawn Geras’ heart broke when she heard that an infant boy was found dead Oct. 21 in an Evanston hospital laundry room.

She knew it didn’t have to be that way.

Geras, founder of the Chicago-based Save Abandoned Babies Foundation, helped write the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act of 2001.

The Illinois law allows parents to anonymously relinquish custody of newborns to hospitals, fire stations and other emergency medical facilities if there are no signs of physical abuse. In July, lawmakers amended the law to add police stations to the list of “safe havens.”

“They can walk away, no questions asked,” Geras said.

Since the law was passed, nine babies have been relinquished safely, Geras said.

Meryl Paniak, an attorney for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, explained that babies who are abandoned in keeping with the law usually are adopted much faster than babies who are abandoned unsafely.

After a safely abandoned baby is checked for any medical problems, DCFS is notified and the baby is put up for adoption.

When a baby is abandoned unsafely, authorities must deal with the possible prosecution of the parent and other legal matters.

“It’s a much slower process because you’re going through foster care,” Paniak said.

The only problem with the law, said Paniak and Geras, is that not enough women know about it.

The law stipulated that public awareness campaigns be required, but allotted no funds for that purpose, Geras said.

“We are struggling,” she said.

So far, DCFS and Geras’ nonprofit group have tried to spread awareness through brochures and posters. They also have held fund raisers and found companies who would donate supplies and services.

“We’ve learned to work very smart economically,” Geras said.

Also, in July 2003, the law was amended to require Illinois high school students to learn about the law in health class.

Besides educating people about the law, they also try to break the stereotypes surrounding child abandonment. Paniak said many people assume women who abandon their babies are young teenage mothers who are having their first children.

But Geras estimated that half of the mothers who used the law since it was passed were under 24 years old. The oldest mother was 39, and some have had other children.

The law has been unique in that its support has been bipartisan, said Eric Miller, chief of staff for State Rep. Elizabeth Coulson (R-17th), who sponsored the law and several amendments to it.

“We have people who are both pro-life and pro-choice supporting the law, which is rare in politics,” said Miller, who also is a member of the board of directors for the Save Abandoned Babies Foundation.

News of more abandonments always underscore the need to educate more people of the law, Geras said.

“It just devastates me,” she said. “I think everybody’s been touched by a baby.”

Reach Alison Knezevich at [email protected].

Quick facts:

 Illinois’ Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act was signed into law with bipartisan support in 2001.

 The law was amended in July 2003 to require Illinois high school students to learn about the law in health class.

 Half of the mothers who used the law since 2001 have been under 24 years old. But politicians and activists are concerned that the law is being underused.

More to Discover
Activate Search
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Safe havens’ for abandoned infants underuse