It was otherwise an uneventful Father’s Day as morning duties began at a Florida fire station. Then the doorbell rang. There stood a young woman, exhausted and frightened, holding a newborn infant wrapped in a blanket. She told the firefighters, “I want to leave her in a safe haven.” They asked if she was sure. “Yes,” she replied, “it’s the only way. Please take good care of her.”
This is but one example of the successful program A Safe Haven for Newborns, established by the Gloria M. Silverio Foundation, a 501(c)(3) created in 2001 by Nick Silverio of Miami. The program allows parents to leave unwanted newborns in designated places like fire/EMS stations and hospitals, anonymously and without prosecution, to ensure their safe care. Its mission is to save the precious lives of newborns in danger of abandonment and help preserve the health and futures of their mothers.
To date the program has allowed 307 infants to be saved in Florida, other states, and Central America. In addition, more than 5,000 women have received assistance from the program’s multilingual help line (877/767-2229).
Florida’s surrendered newborn infant law was enacted in 2000 and provides the mother or father an opportunity to surrender their newborn infant at any 24-hour-staffed fire/EMS station or hospital. Public awareness is saving lives, and A Safe Haven for Newborns is contributing to this outcome in Florida and beyond. A multitude of avenues are utilized to promote the program, with social media a leading resource. A Safe Haven for Newborns has provided assistance to other states developing their programs and training as well.
A Safe Haven for Newborns has gained national and international attention and been recognized as the premier Safe Haven program in the nation. It has been featured in People Magazine, the Florida Fire Chiefs’ Association publication, on CNN, among Florida’s Points of Light, and through a host of other media sources over the past 19 years. The foundation website provides online training for health and social services, students, departments of children and families, fire-rescue and EMS, and law enforcement. Also provided to all these disciplines is media assistance, statistical information, and educational materials.
One major key to the identification of Safe Haven locations is the Safe Haven for Newborns signage displayed on all participating facilities. To learn more about A Safe Haven for Newborns, visit www.asafehavenfornewborns.com or call 305/882-1304, ext. 103.
Lars White recently retired as fire chief for the city of Oviedo, Fla.