County Council gives unanimous support for legislation creating task force to explore options on protecting infants
StoryOn February 12, the lifeless body of an infant was found wrapped in a blanket in the woods less than a half a mile from a hospital near the city of North bend. The full story of how and why this baby girl—who was named Kimball after the Kimball Creek Bridge where she was found—may never come to light, the Metropolitan King County Council today gave its unanimous support for an effort to help avoid these tragedies in the future.
The Council adopted 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.
“Safe alternatives exist under State law that can help reduce child abandonment and avoid the kind of tragedy that occurred near North Bend last month,” said Councilmember Reagan Dunn, lead sponsor of the motion. “The focus of this task force is to bring greater awareness of The Safety of Newborn Children Law to the residents of King County.”
The Safety of Newborn Children Law was adopted in Washington state in 2002 and says that parents can leave newborns with qualified individuals at hospitals, fire stations or federally designated rural health clinics anonymously up to 72 hours after the birth of a child without fear of prosecution for abandonment.
The goal of the motion is to ultimately save lives and provide options to young parents who don’t know where to turn for help.
“I appreciate the unanimous support of my colleagues on the council for this legislation to help inform new moms of options so they don’t abandon their babies. People need to know a newborn baby can be taken to a hospital or fire station,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert, chair of the Council’s Law, Justice, Health and Human Services Committee. “Knowing of this state law may save lives. I’m encouraged that people will now have greater access to information that they can share with those in need.”
“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 the County Council for making this a priority and passing this important motion.”
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.