In October 2000, a newborn baby girl was found in a shed in Townsend, Tennessee. Her 14-year-old mother had concealed her pregnancy and given birth to the baby alone in her home. In order to hide the pregnancy and the birth, she abandoned the baby in a neighbor’s shed. The baby died of severe dehydration and the teen was later charged with first-degree murder and sentenced to state custody.
Devastated by this tragic event, two Blount County women, Shawna McConnell and Lisa Yount, were determined that no other babies would fall victim to similar circumstances. The efforts of Shawna and Lisa, along with Tennessee local
legislators and other concerned citizens, resulted in the passage of Tennessee’s Safe Haven Law in June 2001.
The law, enacted on July 1, 2001 and amended in 2020, initially allowed mothers of newborns to surrender unharmed babies to staff at
designated facilities within 72 hours of birth without fear of being prosecuted. The
amendment to the law that took effect in 2020 extended this timeline from 72 hours to
Without awareness of the Safe Haven Law, unsafe abandonment of newborn babies will continue. Educating the public about the legislation is crucial. A Secret Safe Place for Newborns of Tennessee, Inc., a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization that supports and assists facilities where mothers can surrender their babies, operates a 24-hour helpline to answer questions and educates young women across the state about this legal alternative to infant abandonment. Scared and desperate teens and women who are hiding a pregnancy must be informed that there is a better option than abandoning their babies. The goal of a Secret Safe Place is to prevent newborn abandonment through education and public awareness. Our organization’s public awareness efforts have included disseminating information through printed resources, billboards, television, malls, movies, digital and print ads, news articles, the Secret Safe Place website, social media, and educational programs. More than 120 babies have been safely surrendered statewide under Tennessee’s Safe Haven Law since 2001.
For more information about A Secret Safe Place for Newborns, its efforts, and how you can help, please contact us.
Note: We are not an adoption agency. Our role is to educate the public about Tennessee’s Safe Haven Law. For information on adoption of Safe Haven babies, please visit the Department of Children’s Services website.