Letter: Awareness of safe haven laws could have saved life
As the chairperson of Into Safe Arms, a project of the Hampton Roads Section of the National Council of Jewish Women, I’d like to address the recent tragedy in Gloucester County where a dead baby was discovered along with a terribly malnourished 6-year-old who was found locked in a cage and near death.
Given the heinous nature of these crimes, I am more than a little frustrated at the lack of any kind of significant outcry or public conscience. Contrast this situation with the never-ending uproar about the crime of dog-fighting that has taken up so much time and thought throughout Hampton Roads for the past four years.
Our organization led the effort that created safe haven laws in Virginia several years ago. The bill allows a parent to give up their newborn (up to 14 days old) at any hospital or fire station/rescue squad with no threat of criminal or civil prosecution.
What a happier outcome could have resulted if the parents of these children had been more aware of the safe haven option and made a decision that would have saved a life and avoided horrible trauma to another.
The safe haven law states that the Commonwealth should publicize the legislation, but provided no funding mechanism to do so. We are fortunate that three major hospitals on the Peninsula support our effort. Riverside Health System and Sentara in both Hampton and Williamsburg provide funding for our activities.
With the participation of more health care organizations, volunteer groups, individuals and the media, tragedies such as those in Gloucester can be prevented. Without continuing public awareness and education, we risk more lives every year.
Chairperson, Into Safe Arms
Newport News, Va.