An unusual 'Safe Haven' situation

Sunday, November 18, 2007

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LAKE WALES - Thursday morning, firefighters in Lake Wales took in a baby boy given up by his mother under the Safe Haven laws.

Thursday night, the baby's father came to the station, frantic, wanting the baby back.

Firefighters and police say they had no idea what to do at first.

"Neither one of us had ever heard of this before," said Lake Wales Police detective Lynette Townsel. "We didn't know the protocol for it -- we'll be honest, we didn't know how to handle it at first."

Through emergency phone calls to the creator of the Safe Haven program and the Department of Children and Families, they learned the boy must stay with state workers who have custody now. 

Adoption attorney Jeanne Trudeau Tate said that once a parent has given up a child, they have to go through a judge to get him back.

"The question is, does [the father] have a right to step forth? Yes. Does that mean he automatically gets the child back?  No. The court still has to determine it's in the child's best interest and that his actions have not created a situation where his parental rights should be terminated," Tate said.

In the meantime, Lake Wales Police Officers said they felt the "Safe Haven" system worked correctly in this case, because no matter what happens to the baby boy in the weeks to come, he is safe, which is the first priority.

The question is, will he be able to get custody of the child, and if so will the mother be force to pay support?


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