Florida: Questions about "Safe Haven" and Adoption Agency Privilege

Back on November 4, Al Neuharth, old newspaper man and founder (of among other things USA Today) wrote a rather unnotable piece in Florida Today, “Chosen Children” in which he extols National Adoption Awareness Month. Neuharth is a longtime advocate of adoption, so the essay isn’t surprising. .

Left hand couple:  Fornes & Neuharth

Neuharth, 87, and his wife, Dr. Rachel Fornes have transracially adopted six children between the ages of 11 and 20. Fornes, in fact,  founded the not-for profit adoption agency Home at Last located in Cocoa Beach, FL. and is a former board member of the National Council for Adoption.

About half-way through the otherwise routine adoptaarticle, these curious paragraphs pop up:

 [Rachel] has special contacts with schools, churches, hospitals and police who put her in touch with pregnant women who cannot or don’t want to take care of their offspring..I

In Florida, women with newborn babies can leave them at any of those locations for caretaking, no questions asked. Then, instead of desertion, they are in good hands while the adoption process proceeds.

Remember that in Florida, babies dumped off at “safe have” stations do not, as in most other states, go through the state system.  Instead, they are channeled for adoption directly through private agencies, which in turn charge hefty fees for placement of documentless infants.  These agencies have everything to lose if the mother, father, or family member shows up later to demand return. The list of state-approved private dump intake agencies is here.

All of  Florida’s safe havened infants by law much be admitted to a hospital for inspection and treatment.  Here is a summary of how the Florida law works–and specifically how it works regarding private industry privilege:

Any newborn infant admitted to a hospital in accordance with the safe haven laws is presumed to be eligible for coverage under Medicaid, subject to federal rules.[iv] On accepting physical custody of a newborn infant the hospital authorities accepting custody shall:

Immediately contact a licensed child-placing agency to transfer the physical custody of the newborn.  If the hospital authorities are not aware of any licensed child-placing agency, it may contact the statewide central abuse hotline for the name of a licensed child-placing agency.  The hospital authorities shall notify the child-placing agency that an abandoned infant has been taken into custody by the hospital.  The hospital shall also enquire the time within which the child-placing agency can take physical custody of the newborn.[v]

It’s one thing to have contacts with various officials,. but quite another to link that contact with “safe haven.”  dumping.

There are questions here:

  • Under certain circumstances are officials channeling  women with problem pregnancies and/or their already born babies into Home at Last?
  • Does Home at Last get special scoop privileges under Florida’s unique “safe haven” machine?
  • Does Rachel Fornes promote baby dumping as an alternative to traditional child relinquishment?
  • Are financial considerations (finders’s fees)  involved?

I don’t  know but Neuharth opened the door to these questions.

Related post::  Note to Al Neuharth:  Casey Anthony is Not a “Birthmother” or Why Language Counts 

3 Replies to “Florida: Questions about "Safe Haven" and Adoption Agency Privilege”

  1. Before safe haven, an average of 81 children died of neglect in the state every year. Since the adoption of regional safe haven recommendations and eventually the safe haven law, that number suddenly dropped in a 12-month span to 9 children per year.

    I agree that it needs oversight, but not everything is as black and white as you see it. If you would sacrifice the lives of 72 children just for your ideology, you are a much more dangerous person than even the baby thieves.

    I do agree with you that unrestricted use of safe havens without any kind of oversight is a big problem, but abolishing a system like this is not the way to deal with it.

    In an anonymous survey in Dade county, 11 of the 13 women who filled out the anonymous health note when they dropped off an unwanted child at a police station, fire department or hospital (there were 17 dropoffs, only 13 filled out the 1-page form) that they would not have taken advantage of the program if they had been required to identify themselves.

    I’m just wondering if you did any real-world research before writing your essay. I think you have very good intentions that are unfortunately untempered by any knowledge of how the system works, and no suggestions for reforming it while maintaining the welfare of children who can/will benefit from it.

  2. Anonymous, I’m wondering if you have any actual support for those numbers of babies abandoned every year in Florida. The state of Florida does not track these numbers.

    I’m also wondering if those women in Dade county were aware of other options that would have been safer for them and their babies (if less profitable for the adoption agencies) and that would also have shielded their identities. Moreover, “would not have taken advantage of the program” does NOT mean that these women would have thrown their babies in the dumpster if safe havens did not exist.

    As research by the Donaldson Institute shows, there is zero evidence that women who abandon babies unsafely do so because they are trying to avoid detection. They do so because they are in an irrational, desperate state.

  3. “If you would sacrifice the lives of 72 children just for your ideology, you are a much more dangerous person than even the baby thieves.”

    For someone who insists on “real-world” research, where is your research showing that “a sudden drop in a 12-month span [from 81] to 9 children” dying of neglect means that 72 children who were safe havened would have died of neglect? Eleven parents out 17 citing anonymity on an anonymous health form hardly proves that. And out of the 81 children who previously died of neglect, how many were young enough to be surrendered at a safe haven legally? And why do you limit the analysis to neglect? Wasn’t safe haven anonymity meant to prevent deaths from murder, manslaughter, and abuse, too? Your data and arguments are woefully lacking. Bring your own research results before you criticize Marley.

    And Marley is not describing her own ideology. The Constitution is arguably violated in several ways by anonymous surrender laws. The Constitution is the ideology of the people of this country, and it has proven to be worth a lot more than 72 hypothetical lives.

    Erik L. Smith

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