Frequently Asked Questions
WHAT IS TENNESSEE'S SAFE HAVEN LAW?
The Tennessee Safe Haven Law allows a mother to surrender her unharmed newborn within 14 days of birth, confidentially, and without prosecution for abandonment, to staff at any designated Safe Haven facility.
HOW DOES THE LAW WORK?
A mother, who is unable or prepared to care for her newborn, may confidentially bring her baby, 14 days old or younger, to staff at any hospital, birthing center, health department, outpatient "walk-in" clinic, or any EMS facility, fire or police department (*Staff member must be present at the time of the surrender). The mother does not have to give her name or any other information.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THE BABY?
The facility staff receiving the baby will provide any needed treatment, and the baby will be admitted to a nearby hospital. The staff is required by law to contact the local Department of Children's Services (DCS) office. When the baby is released from the hospital, DCS takes custody of the baby and will find an adoptive family. The baby may be placed in foster care until the adoption process starts.
WILL THE MOTHER BE REPORTED TO THE POLICE?
As long as the baby is unharmed, 14 days old or younger, surrendered at a Safe Haven facility, and the mother indicates she will not return for the baby, the mother will not be reported to the police.
WHAT IF THE MOTHER IS A MINOR?
Age does not matter, any female can surrender her unwanted baby (unharmed and 14 days old or younger) under the Safe Haven Law, safely and confidentially. Her parents will not be contacted.
WILL THE SAFE HAVEN FACILITY STAFF ASK FOR ANY INFORMATION?
The staff receiving the surrendered baby may ask for information but must tell the mother she is not required to answer. If the mother wants to give a medical history that will help the baby's adoptive parents, she may provide that information, and her confidentiality will be protected. The mother may take a medical history form with her and mail it to her regional DCS office.
CAN SOMEONE OTHER THAN THE MOTHER SURRENDER A NEWBORN?
No, the mother must bring the baby herself. She could have somebody else with her, but she must be present to surrender the baby.
The person receiving the surrendered baby must know that this is the mother's decision and that no one is forcing or pressuring her to do so. No one has to know she brought her baby in, but she must be the person that brings the baby.
CAN'T THE MOTHER JUST GIVE THE BABY UP FOR ADOPTION?
Yes, anyone wishing to place a baby up for adoption is free to do so. The Safe Haven Law provides a legal and safe alternative for women who are too scared to tell anyone else they are pregnant. Some young women hide their pregnancies and feel they have no other choice but to abandon their babies somewhere. This law provides a safe and legal alternative to infant abandonment.
IS THERE SOMEONE A MOTHER CAN TALK WITH ABOUT HER DECISION?
Yes, there are people who can support a mother's decision to surrender her baby or answer any questions she may have. A helpline is available 24/7 by calling 1-866-699-SAFE. The call is completely confidential. The mother will not be asked her name, and no one will be told that she called. She can also contact the TN Statewide Crisis Phone Line at 855-CRISIS-1.
WHAT IF THE MOTHER CHANGES HER MIND AND WANTS HER BABY BACK?
The law does not prevent a mother from changing her mind. The baby will be assigned an identification number, which will also be given to the mother. If the mother changes her mind, she should call A Secret Safe Place for Newborns Helpline at 1-866-699-SAFE or contact her local Department of Children's Services office. She can lose her right to reclaim the baby 30 days after the baby is surrendered. When a mother calls the Helpline, someone will help her understand her options.
WHAT IF THE MOTHER HAS OTHER QUESTIONS ABOUT THE SAFE HAVEN LAW?
Call the A Secret Safe Place Helpline at 1-866-699-SAFE. Calls are completely anonymous and confidential, not recorded, and not linked to a caller ID system. She will not be asked her name, and no one will be told that she called. She may also receive more information on our website.