In South Carolina, there are many laws that protect women in crisis and in situations where they may be forced to choose between their own health and another. Daniel’s Law, also known as the Safe Haven for Abandoned Infants Act, is one of these laws that provides immunity from criminal prosecution to a person who has given birth or who is the parent of the child and believes that she cannot take care of the child. The law provides immunity to a person if he or she leaves an infant at a designated Safe Haven within thirty days of his or her birth as long as the infant is unharmed.

Specifics of Daniel’s Law

The purpose of Daniel’s Law is to provide an incentive for a person to bring the infant to a designated Safe Haven rather than placing the child in a potentially fatal situation. A designated Safe Haven would be a hospital, law enforcement agency, fire department station, any station that provides emergency medical services, or religious center.

The person who is leaving the child may remain anonymous, but he or she is required to provide medical history about the baby’s parents or if possible, the names of the parents. This is for the purpose of adequately treating the newborn in case the child is suffering or is prone to suffer from any type of genetic disorder. Additional information may be requested to determine whether the infant might also have been in danger or harmed due to the mother’s use of controlled substance during pregnancy. Any identifying information, however, is required to remain confidential by the intaker at the Safe Haven.

The act of leaving the child at a designated Safe Haven is considered, pursuant to South Carolina law, to be a relinquishment of parental rights. The act of abandoning the child creates a presumption that the person does not have the intent to return for the child in the future and would like to terminate any parental rights.  After the Department of Social Services (DSS) has been notified and within forty-eight hours, the infant’s legal custody will be transferred to DSS and the infant’s adoption proceedings will begin. The DSS is required to publish in the newspaper a description, other identifying information about the infant, and the date of the permanency hearing in case there is a person who would like to assert parental rights and claim the abandoned infant.

The protection of the infant is at the heart of Daniel’s Law, and the ability to provide women in crisis with an alternative than placing an infant in possible fatal situations is of the utmost importance. Its effectiveness can be shown in a recent report, where a baby boy was brought into the Lexington Medical Center-Urgent Care, and taken into custody by the DSS. Though it may be thought that abandonment of a child is repugnant, it is important to understand that the alternative could have been much worse.

Speak with an Attorney About Your Options

Parental rights are constitutionally-protected and are not easily terminated. The State has an overwhelming burden to prove that the parent is unfit and it is not in the best interest of the child. More important, the State holds the family unit sacred, and will not haphazardly terminate a parent’s right to his child without significant evidence. If you are currently in a situation where your parental rights are being challenged, either by an ex-spouse or the State itself, and live in the Mount Pleasant, Charleston, or greater South Carolina area, please contact an experienced family law attorney at Klok Law Firm LLC who can review the facts of your case and protect your parental rights.