Legislation creates task force to explore options on protecting infants
The Metropolitan King County Council’s Law, Justice, Health and Human Services Committee today unanimously passed out of committee a motion calling on the County Executive to create a task force to examine ways of increasing awareness of options available for parents to legally and safely give up a newborn.
“The findings of this task force will be used to bring greater awareness of the Safety of Newborn Children Law to the residents of King County,” said Councilmember Reagan Dunn, lead sponsor of the motion. “By making residents more aware of safe alternatives we can hopefully prevent future reoccurrences of the recent tragedy we witnessed near North Bend.”
The motion was drafted partly in response to an incident on Feb. 12, when a walker discovered the body of a baby girl in a wooded area in North Bend. It is possible that the fate of this child may have been averted if her parents had taken advantage of a state law that provides an alternative to abandonment that has been in effect since 2002.
In Washington state, parents can leave newborns with qualified individuals at hospitals, fire stations or federally designated rural health clinics. The Safety of Newborn Children Law allows parents to do this anonymously up to 72 hours after the birth of a child without fear of prosecution for abandonment.
“I support this law because it provides a safety net to keep babies alive. There are legal alternatives to abandonment of a newborn,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert. “Our communities and citizens need to be aware of this information so right choices can be made to save lives.”
"We should do everything we can to avoid similar tragedies by educating new mothers about all of their options with their newborns," said Sheriff John Urquhart. "I commend Councilmembers Dunn and Lambert on their work on this important issue.”
The task force will consist of representatives from the Executive and Council, local cities, health care institutions, public health, the criminal justice system, human service agencies, and first responders.
The motion calls for the task force to be in place by April 30 and to provide the Council and the Executive recommendations that include:
- How the County can engage in a collaborative campaign on educating service providers and the public about the Safety of Newborn Children Law;
- Ways to work with the state to obtain useful, timely data on instances of safe transfer of newborns and newborn abandonment;
- Examining whether the program should expand through state legislation the locations where newborns can be accepted.
The motion calls on the task force to present its report to the Council by October 30, 2014.