Every year, thousands, if not millions, of individuals and couples are forced to deal with unexpected pregnancies. While many choose to rearrange their lives to prepare to take on the challenges of raising the child, others, for a wide variety of reasons, are not able to do so. Throughout Illinois, there are many options for would-be parents to deal with an unexpected pregnancy, including agency-based or private adoption. The process of adoption, however, can seem overwhelming, especially for young parents, and fear of the unknown, sadly, may lead to tragic decision-making. Such was the case, it seems, for a 20-year-old college student last month, who could possibly have been helped if she had known about and utilized the state’s safe haven law.
Young Woman Facing Murder Charges
News outlets are reporting that a 20-year-old student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has been charged with first-degree murder, concealment of a homicide, and child endangerment. Authorities at the school and Champaign County prosecutors believe that the woman gave birth in a dorm bathroom then suffocated the infant. The woman was found later that day with the deceased baby in a backpack she was carrying. She now faces up to 75 in prison if she is convicted.
Knowing All the Options
The state’s attorney’s office reports that the woman initially claimed that she did not realize she was pregnant until she went into labor. An investigation of her internet search history, however, suggests otherwise. According to reports, she had allegedly been looking for information about pregnancy, miscarriage, and home abortions since as far back as September. This element of the case is particularly troubling to Dawn Geras, founder and president of the Save Abandoned Babies Foundation, an organization that was instrumental in developing the state’s safe haven law.
“I get angry at myself, at you (the media), and the school because that young girl didn’t know that there was a state legal option,” Geras said in a statement. “Why didn’t she find our site when she was searching the internet?”
Illinois Safe Haven Law
Colloquially known as the safe haven law, the Illinois Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act allows parents to relinquish newborn children to properly-trained personnel at designated “safe havens” with few or no questions being asked and no risk of facing child abandonment charges. Under the law, a child can be legally relinquished at a hospital, emergency medical facility, a police station, or a fire station. Trained staff will attempt to gather as much information as possible to help the child, but their main focus is to help the newborn. After a comprehensive health examination and any treatment found to be needed, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services will begin the process of placing the child for adoption.
To date, at least 106 children have been relinquished and successfully adopted under the safe haven law. Geras and other child-safety activists believe that education regarding the program is key to preventing tragic situations like the one in Champaign County. She believes that the student did not know about her option to relinquish her child and that educational institutions should consider making more information available. “This is a subject that needs to be talked about,” she said. “Pay it forward, talk about it, and tell a friend; you may save a life.”
If you are considering adding to your family through adoption or have questions about the process, contact an experienced Kane County family law attorney. Our team will help you find the answers you need and work with you in making the right decisions. Call 630-377-7770 today to schedule your free consultation at Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C..