Westover case spurs discussion about state’s Safe Haven law

WESTOVER, W.Va. — Police say a woman in Westover gave birth to a child in January and for an unknown reason zipped the child up in a backpack and placed it in the crawlspace of her home.

The baby was discovered days later and has been placed with another family.

The incident has started discussion about the state’s Safe Haven law.

State Department of Health and Human Resources Associate General Counsel Cammie Chapman said the law is there to protect the life of the child and help unprepared parents.

“The hospital would accept the child and the hospital is required to report immediately to Child Protective Services to place the child in state custody,” Chapman said during an appearance Thursday on MetroNews “Talkline.”

Under the law, the child must be surrendered within 30 days of birth with no questions asked.

“The parent must express the intent not to return for the child,” Chapman said. “They must deliver the child voluntarily and in good faith.”

Hospitals and health care facilities that are open 24/7 can accept a newborn. State law designates fire stations that are staffed 24/7 to accept newborns, but there are no known fire stations that do. Additionally, state law says,” the facility will not compel the parent to disclose any identifying information. Parents have the right to remain anonymous.

“The facility accepting the child is not required to identify themselves and shall respect the person’s desire to remain anonymous,” Chapman said.

From the minute the child is delivered it is considered abandoned and state workers assume care and control of the child. All of those actions are also monitored by the county prosecutor.

“Child Protective Services would place that child with a foster family,” Chapman said. “That child would become eligible for an adoption through the court system.”

Initially the woman in Westover denied the baby belonged to her but later said it did which was confirmed by DNA analysis. Further testing showed amounts of the benzodiazepine Xanax, methamphetamine, suboxone and cocaine, police said.

“They shouldn’t be afraid, because as long as this is done in good faith they are immune to prosecution for criminal neglect,” Chapman said.

The baby girl in this case is with an unidentified family doing well, according to reports.

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