By Ashley M. Casey
The Catholic Daughters of America, Court Pere LeMoyne #833, are holding an informational meeting about the “Safe Haven” program at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 11 at the Fulton Municipal Building.
Timothy Jaccard, founder of the AMT Children of Hope, will present a program and answer questions about an anonymous, safe drop-off system for unwanted infants.
In July 2010, New York state updated the 2000 Abandoned Infant Protection Act to remove criminal liability for parents who surrender unwanted infants to a “safe location,” usually a hospital, fire station or police department.
A person may drop off an infant less than 30 days old — no questions asked — as long as the child does not show any sign of being abused or harmed.
Patty Mancino, regent of the local Catholic Daughters of America chapter, saw Jaccard speak at a statewide Catholic Daughters of America conference last April.
After Catholic Daughters of America Program Coordinator Teresa Kempston contacted Jaccard with questions about his Safe Haven program, Jaccard offered to come speak in Fulton.
Jaccard sent promotional materials, and Catholic Daughters of America has been spreading the word across the area through decals on Menter Ambulances.
“He’s the one that has worked so hard into making the law,” Mancino said of Jaccard.
In January 2011, Liverpool police found a newborn girl who had suffocated to death in a Dumpster.
The child’s mother was sentenced to 13 years in prison after pleading guilty to first-degree manslaughter in her daughter’s death.
Safe Haven programs, which are available across the country, have been instituted to give parents a legal alternative to abandoning and risking the lives of their infants.
“Upstate, it hasn’t caught on like it has in other parts of the state,” said Fulton Mayor Ronald L. Woodward Sr.
He said the meeting would serve to educate local agencies about the “Safe Haven” program and how agencies and organizations can become a safe drop-off location.
Mancino said Kempston has invited area fire departments, local legislators and the Greater Fulton Area Council of Christian Churches to the Feb. 11 meeting.
“You can’t just leave a baby on a step or a porch. It’s not safe,” Mancino said. “There’s got to be some help out there to save these lives.”
Mancino said the idea has piqued the interest of several local fire departments. The general public is invited as well.
“The more you sit at the dinner table and discuss these controversial topics is how you get them out there,” she said.
“I think it’s good that people are educated, and young girls know they have an alternative,” Woodward said. “We’d certainly feel very, very bad if something like that happened in this community when there were other alternatives.”
Mancino acknowledged that training Oswego County agencies to be Safe Haven locations is a big endeavor.
“It’s got to start someplace. Baby steps,” she said.
For more information about the Safe Haven informational meeting, call Catholic Daughters Regent Patty Mancino at 598-9748.
To find the Safe Haven location nearest to you, call AMT Children of Hope’s anonymous, confidential hotline at 877-796-HOPE (4673).
To learn about safe drop-off locations under the Abandoned Infant Protection Act, call 866-505-SAFE (7233).
Visit the New York state Office of Children and Family Services website at ocfs.ny.gov for more resources.