Spread the Word: "Safe Haven" Saves Babies - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Spread the Word: "Safe Haven" Saves Babies

In 2003, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania enacted Safe Haven of Pennsylvania. This program, also known as the Newborn Protection Act, allows anyone to confidentially leave a newborn baby up to 28 days old in the care of any hospital in Pennsylvania as an alternative to abandoning or harming the baby. No questions will be asked and the parent will not face any criminal charges as long as the baby is unharmed.

Since Safe Haven’s inception, 12 babies have been turned over to hospitals throughout the state; all have been adopted and are growing up healthy and safe. This is a positive alternative for young girls who have unwanted pregnancies and don’t know where to turn for help. Yet, many girls in the target age group of 15 to 25 years old don’t know about Safe Haven. Nurses are in a unique position to play a key role in raising awareness of this program among the youth in our communities as well as co-workers, both clinical and non-clinical.

Under the Safe Haven program, a newborn baby can be handed over to any hospital staff member. At Crozer-Keystone hospitals, the employee should immediately contact a supervisor and take the baby to the Emergency Department (ED) to be examined and receive any necessary medical care. The ED also has responsibility for notifying Delaware County Children and Youth Services who will work to find the baby a loving home through the state’s foster care system.

Pat Eckenrode

“If a baby should be brought to our hospital, we encourage our staff to get some health information about the baby if possible before the parent leaves,” says Pat Eckenrode, RN, nurse manager of Taylor Hospital’s Emergency Department. “This will help to ensure that the baby receives needed care.”

If the parent wants to leave quickly, the hospital staff could give him or her a health history form to fill out later and mail in anonymously as an alternative.

Education and Awareness

Kathy
Schwalm 

Education and awareness efforts are ongoing at all Crozer-Keystone hospitals. At Delaware County Memorial Hospital (DCMH), Safe Haven is part of annual competency training required of the entire nursing staff and will soon become part of annual education for all hospital employees, according to Kathy Schwalm, RN, nurse manager of the DCMH Emergency Department. “We need to educate everyone in the hospital because someone could come in and hand a baby to a volunteer or a housekeeper, not necessarily to a nurse or doctor,” she says.

At Taylor, Safe Haven is featured at annual education events, and recently, the ED nursing staff spearheaded an effort to hang Safe Haven posters strategically throughout the hospital to build awareness. DCMH will soon follow suit.

“We are also hoping to put information cards about the program in all of Taylor’s public restrooms,” says Eckenrode. Education about the program is also included in orientation sessions for new employees. 

Similar initiatives are in place at Crozer-Chester Medical Center and Springfield Hospital.

Spreading the Word to the Community

Amy Meehan

The nursing staffs at all Crozer-Keystone EDs agree that youth in the local community need more education about Safe Haven. “When nurses who work at DCMH mention Safe Haven to their teenagers, the kids don’t know what they’re talking about,” says Schwalm. “We need to work with the schools to increase awareness. Nurses who are mothers of middle and high school students have the perfect opportunity to suggest and make presentations at schools.”

Colleges also need to make their students aware of Safe Haven, according to Amy Meehan, RN, nurse manager of Springfield Hospital’s ED. “College-age students often find themselves in need of this kind of help,” says Meehan. “Putting information cards in the women’s restrooms on campus would be a great start at building awareness. 

“Parish nurses can also be a good resource for spreading the word among church congregations,” adds Meehan. “Community health fairs and events are other great venues.”

Elizabeth
Fuller


“Any time I have the opportunity, I let young people know about Safe Haven,” says Eckenrode. “When teenagers come in to the ED concerned about sexually transmitted disease, they have to listen to my safe sex lecture, and I include Safe Haven in that discussion. OB/Gyn clinics that provide care to a large teenage patient population should also be sure to make them aware of this program.”

“Nurses should be sure to educate their own kids because kids learn from each other and they can spread the word,” says Schwalm. “Most don’t know about Safe Haven or don’t really believe that they’re not going to get in trouble if they leave a baby at the hospital.  If they hear it from a source they know and trust, such as a nurse, it could make all the difference.”