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'Safe Haven' needs more p.r.

July 25, 2006

Pennsylvania's Safe Haven law has been the law for three years, allowing parents who want to surrender a child up to 28 days old to take it to any hospital - no questions asked.

But although the law's terms are more flexible than those of many states - the Massachusetts law put the cutoff at 7 days - only two babies have been dropped off since 2003.

In the past two months, two Pennsylvania babies have been abandoned on the streets by mothers who couldn't cope.

The Associated Press (AP) quoted Nancy Hardy, deputy secretary for the state Office of Children, Youth and Families, as saying that the law is working, but could be working better.

Hardy told the AP that her office is developing a new brochure and has a Web site and a toll-free help line.

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But more awareness is needed and perhaps better technology. Last year the Christian Science Monitor reported that in Germany and the Czech Republic, authorities have installed "baby boxes" that allow mothers to place the child in an incubator-type device, ring a bell and leave before anyone arrives.

Until that technology arrives here, persuading desperate young mothers that a hospital is better option than a trash can must be a top priority.

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