CA to rekindle child-abandonment prevention effort

SACRAMENTO: California hopes to raise awareness of a two-year-old law allowing mothers to surrender their newborn babies without prosecution, with a forthcoming PR campaign.

SACRAMENTO: California hopes to raise awareness of a two-year-old law allowing mothers to surrender their newborn babies without prosecution, with a forthcoming PR campaign.

The "Safe Arms for Newborns law was enacted in January 2001 after months of work by Debi Faris, a Yucaipa, CA woman who was concerned about the deaths of abandoned newborns. The law allows women to give up babies three days old or younger at any hospital, no questions asked, which should greatly reduce the risk of babies being abandoned in hostile environments.

But in Oakland, CA last week, a woman dumped her newborn in a garbage bag in a resident's front yard. Therefore, the Department of Social Services (DSS) is raising its publicity with a $500,000 "No Shame, No Blame, No Name campaign.

"We issued a press release (when the law was enacted), and that got a lot of coverage, said Blanca Castro, department spokeswoman. "When a baby is safely surrendered, we don't call the media because of the anonymity promised. But we get attention when one is abandoned."

Only eight babies have been surrendered under the law, but approximately 11 have been abandoned since January 2001, and six have been found dead.

Radio PSAs will help drive public awareness, while educational kits will be given to any institution that might deal with a woman thinking of abandoning her baby, such as law enforcement or healthcare.

After the first $500,000 phase, a $1 million grant from the non-profit Commission on Family and Children will enable the DSS to create print, broadcast, and billboard ads to further publicize the law. The first phase of radio PSAs and educational kits will debut in September.

The campaign work is currently out to bid, said Castro.

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