System to Protect Children Tramples Fathers’ Rights

March 5, 2009 at 8:09 pm 2 comments

A mother recently regained custody of her newborn baby from DCFS after being accused of placing her baby face-down in a water-filled toilet bowl during a family party. Last week, the body of a decomposed newborn was discovered in the same mother’s Belleville, Illinois home. The Illinois “Safe Haven” law (Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act, 325 ILCS 2/1, et seq.) is an emotional reaction to this type of tragedy. We can no longer continue to ignore the rights of disenfranchised fathers to protect their children from neglect and worse.

Since “Safe Haven” became a law in Illinois in August 2001, 54 Mothers illegally abandoned their babies in non-approved locations, with 27 of the babies dying.

The Illinois “Safe Haven” law was born out of good intentions to protect infants from literally being thrown into garbage cans and otherwise left to die. However, the manner in which this law and others throughout America are written have created a number of problems for both children and their fathers.

First, the anonymity given to the mother by the “Safe Haven” laws leaves little or no chance that the father will be contacted so that he can pursue custody or protect his child from harm. In fact, in the case of a mother dropping off a child forever pursuant to a “Safe Haven” law, the father does not even need to really be notified. In contrast, in a legal adoption proceeding, the father has to formally relinquish his parental rights.

Secondly, there is an unhealthy gender disparity in our system. Fathers who walk away from parenthood are labeled “deadbeat dads”, or may even go to jail for failing to fulfill their financial responsibilities. On the other hand, mothers who walk away from their babies are protected by the “Safe Haven” laws from any legal and financial accountability and are often viewed as courageous.

Finally, and most importantly, the impact “Safe Haven” laws have on abandoned children must be addressed. The children are denied the chance to grow up with their dads or any other biological family members. They are also denied the right to know their true identity and medical history, which can create a potentially life-threatening situation.

Statistics show that in spite of “Safe Haven” laws, children continue to be thrown away in dumpsters. The “Safe Haven” laws need to be rewritten to protect the children whose mothers are disposing of them; and to protect the fathers who have the right to know that their children exist so they can protect them from harm, death and abandonment.

Jeffery M. Leving is one of America’s most prominent family law attorneys. His website is

Entry filed under: Adoption, Fathers' Rights, Safe Haven Law. Tags: , , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jason Salazar  |  June 25, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    Are there anything similiar to this in Texas. I’m a father who wife took off with the kids and is refusing to let me see them. I’m not a bad father I took care of the mother many times due to her health issues and cared for the children by myself ever since they were born without any assistance by the mother. It takes forever for the child support thing to take effect in order to see my children I know they won’t be fair to me because I’m a man. My kids are better off with me than the mother due to her mental instibility.

  • 2. Sharon Fulgenzi  |  August 17, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    If these fathers are so concerned, would they not be present PRIOR to the birth of the child.? The answer is to advertise adoption. Legally and voluntary surrendering to the fact that one may not be ready to parent. A choice that is safe and permanent which allows an innocent child a chance at a good and decent life.


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