Brief Description: Ensuring the health and safety of newborn infants who have been abandoned and exempting from criminal liability persons who abandon them into the custody of a qualified person.
Since 1999 there have been several local incidents of newborn infants being abandoned in a variety of locations, including a convenience store, sidewalk, trash bin and restroom, putting the infant's health at grave and immediate risk. Under current state law, a person who abandons an infant can be criminally charged with abandonment of a dependent person, family abandonment or family non-support.
Parents who might otherwise abandon their newborn infant are encouraged to leave him or her in a safe place and increase the likelihood of survival. Immunity is provided from specific criminal liability for a parent who transfers a newborn to any hospital employee at a hospital emergency room or to fire station personnel at a staffed fire station. The hospital must give the parent the opportunity to provide family medical history anonymously. Child Protective Services is contacted within 24 hours. The hospital, fire station, staff, and volunteers are immune from criminal or civil liability for accepting a newborn. No changes are made; to current law relating to dependency or termination of parental rights.
Senate Committee on Human Services & Corrections (originally sponsored by Senators Kohl-Welles, Long, Thibaudcan, Costa, McAuliffe, Eide, Stevens, Fairley, Prentice, Franklin, Fraser, Carlson, Spanel, Regala, Hargrove, Oke and Patterson).
Senate Committee on Human Services & Corrections
House Committee on Children & Family Services
In 2009, the Washington Legislature modified RCW 13.34.360 to add Federally Designated Rural Health Clinics as places where newborns may be left with an employee during the hours of operation. Go to Safe Places for a list of Hospitals and Federally Designated Rural Health Clinics.