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Abandoned baby to be placed with foster family

September 20, 2005|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN

erinc@herald-mail.com

An infant boy found Saturday was only a few hours old when a Hagerstown man found him covered in blood and dirt with pieces of his umbilical cord still attached, police said Monday.

Washington County Department of Social Services Director David Engle said Monday he was looking forward to placing the baby in foster care. Engle said a foster family has been found, and the infant should be leaving the hospital soon.

The baby boy has been listed in good condition since his arrival at Washington County Hospital, according to a spokeswoman there.

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The infant will be placed in a permanent home after police conclude their investigation, Engle said. Hagerstown Police Department officers said there was nothing new to report in the case Monday afternoon.

A man found the infant near his home in the 800 block of Chestnut Street about 9:30 a.m Saturday.

Engle said Social Services employees would like to place the baby with a family member who is responsible and eager to care for the boy, who is being called "Baby John Doe" by hospital workers. If that is not possible, Engle said the foster family prepared to care for the infant might be interested in caring for him permanently.

Maureen Theriault, a hospital spokeswoman, said she could not say whether anyone had come forward to hospital officials to claim the infant.

A few weeks before "Baby John Doe" was abandoned, Kelsey Wilkes, director of Integrated Patient Support Services at the hospital, said a co-worker predicted a similar incident could occur. Wilkes said the word was not getting out about Safe Haven, a statewide program allowing unwanted babies to be handed over to a hospital or police.

Without advertisements, Wilkes said scared mothers and unprepared families would not know they could drop off babies 72 hours old and younger with no questions asked.

"If they don't get the campaign back out and running, we're going to have a Safe Haven baby that isn't going to be safe," Wilkes said, remembering what her co-worker predicted.

In Washington County, infants may be dropped off at Washington County Hospital; Hagerstown, Smithsburg and Hancock police departments; the Washington County Sheriff's Office; and Maryland State Police barracks, Wilkes said.

In the year the program has been available in Washington County, no babies have been given up, she said.

"It's not a well-utilized program," Wilkes said. "It focuses on the goal of making sure that babies that are born are properly cared for and are safe."

When she heard an infant only a few hours old - a candidate for Safe Haven - had been abandoned, Wilkes said, it was time to think about advertising for the program locally, not only at the state level.

Now that the baby has been abandoned, he no longer is a candidate for the program and the mother could face criminal charges of abandonment. Safe Haven stipulates that a mother, father, relative or family friend who relinquishes a child to the hospital or police will not face criminal charges.

"Nothing will happen to you (for giving up the child)," Wilkes said. "We even thank you for coming."

She said there are Safe Haven sites in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Hospital officials are concerned about the health of the mother, Wilkes said. The mother most likely gave birth in a home or some place without medical care and might need medical attention, Wilkes said.

After a police investigation, parental rights to the baby will be terminated by the Department of Social Services, which will allow the department to place the baby in a permanent home, Wilkes said.

For emergencies like this one, there is a small pool of foster families who offer to care for children temporarily until they can be placed permanently, Engle said.

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