Between 1997 and 1999, 32 to 34 babies were found abandoned every year, according to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. Dawn Geras, founder of the Save Abandoned Babies Foundation, explained that the number one reason parents unsafel

Between 1997 and 1999, 32 to 34 babies were found abandoned every year, according to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

Dawn Geras, founder of the Save Abandoned Babies Foundation, explained that the number one reason parents unsafely abandon their babies is because they do not know about the Safe Haven law.

The Illinois Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act allows parents to legally give up their unharmed newborns, 7 days old or younger, to personnel at any designated Safe Haven.

Havens include all hospitals, emergency medical facilities, staffed fire stations and police stations.

Once relinquished, the infant receives medical care and is put up for adoption.

Under the law, no one can ask the parent handing over the baby for their name or any other form of identification.

The parent, however, will be offered medical care and counseling, which they have the right to refuse.

Additionally, parents can give anonymous medical information.

Geras started the Save Abandoned Babies Foundation, a completely volunteer-run organization, in 2000.

Beginning February of the following year, the foundation began to lobby for the passage of the Safe Haven law.

Geras said her organization encountered resistance while trying to get the law passed.

“Because it was new, a lot of people had questions,” she explained.

Some officials felt that the law would allow parents to get off without any responsibility, Geras noted. She questioned such an attitude.

“We want to force somebody who can’t parent a child to keep a child?” Geras said.

But Geras persisted.

“It took some educating,” she said of the organization’s lobbying efforts.

Nonetheless, the Illinois legislature passed the Safe Haven law with unanimous support in 2001.

Since the law’s passage, the foundation has focused on continuing its public awareness efforts.

Geras explained that not enough people in crisis know about the law, news of which tends to travel around through word of mouth.

“We’re groping. We’re looking for help,” she said of raising awareness.

Since 2006, the Safe Haven law has to be taught in all Illinois school health education classes and by February of this year, all 50 states offered some way for parents to legally relinquish their newborns.

The Save Abandoned Babies Foundation keeps statistics on the number of abandoned children in Illinois and the age and racial group of known mothers.

Since the passage of the Safe Haven law, 44 infants have been legally given up in Illinois, but 49 were illegally abandoned.

Of the abandoned, 24 did not survive.

The majority of known mothers, 34 percent, were between the ages of 19 and 24. Teenagers, between the ages of 14 and 18, consisted of 22 percent.

The second largest group of known mothers, 28 percent, was between the ages of 25 and 30. The oldest group, ages 31 to 41, comprised of only 16 percent.

Black mothers were not the largest racial group to give up babies. They came in second with 32 percent.

The majority of known women to abandon their babies were white, 44 percent.

The third largest racial group was Latinos/Hispanics with 17 percent. Women of mixed race were the smallest group with 7 percent.

“Each of us as a citizen needs to know the law,” Geras said. “It does save lives.”

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