Few news stories would disturb readers more than the recent report about a Toledo mother who got a life sentence for killing her newborn. Nothing can bring that baby back, but government and the community must always ask what might have prevented such a tragedy.
Sadly, this death was preventable, even given the mother’s apparent belief that her child was an unwelcome intruder. Ohio’s Safe Haven Law allows the parents — or a responsible adult acting on their behalf — of a newborn 30 days old or younger to leave the baby with an on-duty employee at a police station, fire station, or hospital, no questions asked.
People are asked only to provide medical information that could help others care for the baby. Authorities won’t track down the parents or guardians if the baby is uninjured.
In Toledo, children who are left at a safe haven are turned over to Lucas County Children Services and offered for foster care and adoption. For information about the safe haven program, call 419-265-2229.
Save Haven laws aim to save lives and prevent appalling acts such as the one committed by 21-year-old Kenisha Pruitt. She pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, admitting that she killed her baby by putting him under water and tying a shoestring around his neck.
Nearly a year later, the newborn was found in a freezer in the East Toledo home where Ms. Pruitt and the baby’s father once lived. She gave birth to the baby in January, 2012.
In late 2008, the General Assembly prudently increased the time period in which a parent could voluntarily surrender a newborn at a safe location. Statistics are sketchy, but Ohioans have used the Safe Haven Law infrequently since it went into effect in April, 2001, probably less than 10 times a year on average
In 2011, only one person in Lucas County surrendered a baby. Many mothers, if not most, have surrendered their babies at the hospital in which they gave birth.
Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates used Ms. Pruitt’s case to remind the public of the Save Haven Law. It needs more publicity, whether through leaflets at social-service agencies or through public service messages, including targeted spots on television and radio broadcasts.
Promoting such an option might appear unseemly — but not when the alternative is considered.