MO lawmaker trying to save newborns, wants to extend Safe Haven law from 5 days old to 45 days old

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - 18 years ago, David Francis decided to be a voice for the voiceless. He's been played a role with The Children's Place and most recently a member of the Kansas City Child Abuse Roundtable Coalition.

In 2010, his family foundation paid for 150 ‘Safe Haven' signs to hang at fire stations, police stations, hospitals and health departments. They let parents of newborn babies know where to find help.

Francis said, "We don't know how many children are abandoned or in dumpsters?"

That daunting question keeps the fire in his heart alive.

He explained how ‘Safe Haven' locations work, "You have to drop them off and put them in the hands of a professional associate with the hospital, fire department. You just can't drop the child off."

Currently, Missouri law allows this to happen, no questions asked, with a newborn five days old or younger. Additionally, parents have a year of affirmative defense.

However, there is a bill working its way through the Missouri legislature that would change expand that law. Lawmakers want to change the amount of time to 45 days with one goal in mind: to save the lives of newborn babies.

Francis supports the change, "The good thing is that child can be saved and people cannot worry about being prosecuted because they're trying to do the right thing."

He thinks the law would be clearer at 45 days. Plus, it would be in line with what's already passed in Kansas.

Democratic Representative Kevin McManus believes the fight against child abuse should be regional. So, when he drafted the bill, he purposely mirrored the policy Kansas already has in place.

McManus said, "We're trying to be very specific on the type of child abuse we're trying to prevent."

"By expanding the time period from 5 to 45 days, we make the intent of the legislation more effective in preventing those cases," he continued.

He believes, by extending the time period, there is a larger chance of protecting newborns.

Last month, 19 year old Kaitlin Norton was charged with child abandonment and endangerment after allegedly leaving her newborn wrapped in a towel on a Ellisville, Missouri law. If Norton would have given up custody of her child at a ‘Safe Haven' location, she likely would not be facing jail time now.

It's unclear if she knew that was an option.

Both men agree that there needs to be better education on the legal side of ‘Safe Haven' locations so desperate parents know the facts.

There have been some questions raised about if changing the law from 5 days old to 45 days old would create a rush of children brought to these locations. McManus countered, "Whether it's 5 days or 45 days, I'm not sure it's going to make a whole lot of difference in a large number. Even if it's a few cases, it's worth it."

Both men think the fight is worth it, even though they won't ever meet the children they advocate for.

For immediate help or more information call 2-1-1. Click here for a list of ‘Safe Haven' locations in Kansas and Missouri.

Print this article Back to Top