Fire stations getting “safe haven signs”

After three years, the Kansas City Fire Department has agreed on wording for fire station signs that say parents can abandon newborn children there without penalty.

Fire Chief Paul Berardi told the city council public safety committee Wednesday that they are now ready to install the signs with changed wording.

The signs are part of Missouri’s safe haven law, which allows mothers to abandon newborns at certain places without penalty. A 2010 city council resolution called for signs at fire stations but officials rejected them, fearing children would be dropped off on steps outside and freeze to death.

The new sign wording makes it clear children must be handed to a caretaker and not left unattended, Berardi told the committee. Firefighters will then take the babies to hospitals.

Councilman John Sharp suggested the sign wording “do not leave unattended” be in bold face and underlined.

All 50 states now have the safe haven statues, also called “Baby Moses laws,” since Texas first enacted one in 1999. They are intended to save children’s lives by prompting mothers to deliver them to hospitals or emergency care workers instead of killing them or leaving them to die.

Such killings have always been a problem for humanity and cities on both sides of the state line took another look at it three years ago after an Overland Park woman killed her newborn at her parent’s home – just a short distance from a fire station where she could have left the baby.

Critics of the safe haven laws say that they are little publicized and women who could benefit from them often don’t know about them or use them. Advocates say they save the lives of many babies who would otherwise die.

Councilman Scott Taylor said of signs at the fire stations, “The quicker we get the signs up the better.”

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