The case of an 18-year-old Carlisle woman charged with reckless homicide after her baby’s remains were found buried in her backyard have prompted questions about Ohio’s “Safe Haven” law.
The state law provides an option for parents of newborns who wish to give up the infant within 30 days of birth.
It’s unknown how old Brooke Skylar Richardson’s baby was at the time of death, but investigators said the child was not stillborn. Richardson was a high school cheerleader and “very good person,” according to her lawyer.
Ohio’s safe haven law allows a birth parent to leave an infant with a medical worker at a hospital, at a fire department or other emergency service organization, or with a law enforcement officer.
“I’m sure these parents in these situations feel alone, but they do not have to feel alone,” said Angela Terez, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. “There’s plenty of help to be had, through the safe haven program or at the county children services agencies.”
The law provides protection from prosecution only for the child's parents who leave the child at one of those places.
“If the infant is left with a person at one of these places, and has not been abused, the parent will face no legal consequences for making this choice,” according to the ODJFS website.
The birth parent is not required to provide any information, including his or her name, but basic health information can be helpful. A form is available online at www.odjfs.state.oh.us.
“Any of us would like to know our family history,” Terez said.
Those considering leaving a baby at a safe haven location or who have questions about options can call the state’s Help Me Grow hotline at 1-800-755-4769.
If the baby needs medical attention, it will be provided. The county children services agency will also be contacted, and the baby will be placed in an adoptive home.
If the baby is older than 30 days, the safe haven law may not apply. Parents struggling to care for or looking to give up a child beyond that point should contact their local children’s services agency or call the Help Me Grow line.
“There are many people locally who are willing to help and many families who want to adopt a baby,” Terez said.