August 25, 2010
LIMA — Members of an area service club want to make sure if a new parent is feeling overwhelmed there are options to abandonment.
As part of a project through the Lima Exchange Club, area safe havens will now be a little better marked. Officials are also hoping the effort raises awareness about the option.
“This law is really to protect children from parents who are not ready or unable to raise them,” said Brook Elrod, chairwoman of the Exchange Club’s child abuse prevention committee. “It’s really to protect children.”
Under Ohio law, a birth parent may leave an infant up to 30 days old with a medical worker at a hospital, with a medical worker at a fire department or other emergency service organization, or with a peace officer at a law enforcement agency. If done under those conditions, the birth parent would not be required to provide much, if any, information and would not face any legal consequences.
“Obviously no one wants to see an infant in harm’s way. It is a very rare occasion that something like this takes place,” said Maj. Tony Swygart of the Lima Police Department. “That’s why I think it’s all the more important that people are aware this is an option that in an act of desperation they don’t leave an infant somewhere where it’s going to be in danger of harm or death.”
Scott Ferris, director of Allen County Children Services, said the provision, which has been around since 2001, has never been used in Allen County. It has only been used 70 times statewide since 2002, he said.
“A 30-day-old left somewhere on their own will not last long in the environment,” Ferris said. “This is in response to national stories of that happening so that it won’t happen here.”
The club donated signs to better mark safe haven locations in Allen County. Signs were donated to the Lima Police Department, Lima Fire Department, Allen County Sheriff’s Office, Shawnee Township Police Department, St. Rita’s Medical Center and Lima Memorial Health System.