While a fire station may be not be a medical facility, it’s close enough for state officials who say they believe a woman who surrendered her baby Tuesday went to the right place.
A woman drove up to the fire station at 333 East Parkway and handed a firefighter a newborn girl in a paper sack. The woman drove away.
Paramedics checked out the baby and took her to the Regional Medical Center at Memphis where she remains in stable condition. Memphis police collected and preserved evidence in case it was discovered that something illegal was done.
The state law says that a newborn can be voluntarily left at a hospital, birthing center or walk-in clinic. But the law also says that a newborn, 72 hours old or younger, can be left with a member of the professional medical community.
“We believe first responders qualify for that,” said Tennessee Department of Children’s Services spokesman Rob Johnson. “The law was designed so that mothers wouldn’t leave their babies in a Dumpster, so the effect of the law led her to bring her baby to a first responder.”
Lt. Larry Boothby, who took the sack from the woman Tuesday, said he believed the woman saw the fire station’s yellow decal that designates it as a “Safe Place.”
Project Safe Place is a national youth outreach program to help runaways. It can be a church, fire station, library, any place that can assist a youth typically between the ages of 12-17. There are 145 locations in the Memphis area.
The Safe Haven Law was created in 2001 to allow mothers to anonymously surrender their newborn without fear of prosecution. The person accepting the child can ask the mother for her name or for medical history, but the mother isn’t required by law to provide it.
The state does have an obligation to search for the father or other relative of the child before it can go forward with an adoption, said Johnson.
Also, the mother can return to claim her child, said Stacy Miller, DCS general counsel. The state would create a plan to help her reclaim her baby.
“Our first goal is reunification of this baby with her family,” said Miller. “We want to see if we can fix whatever is wrong.”