Safe Havens allow women who can't care for their newborn to safely drop off baby

This is the logo for "Walking with Moms in Need." (OSV News photo/courtesy WalkingWithMoms.com)

(OSV News) ─ Only an hour old and weighing 6 and a half pounds, Angel Grace LNU announced her arrival at approximately 1 a.m. Jan. 28 on a 50-degree night in a wooded area in Mulberry, Florida. She was wrapped in a blanket, placenta still attached and placed next to the chain link fence of the adjacent mobile home park.

"At about midnight I heard cats fighting and then about an hour later about one o'clock I heard a noise -- it sounded like a baby crying, and I went out with my husband to look in the woods," explained Magdalena Gregorio Ordonez, a mother of three from Guatemala whose mobile home backs up to the fence. "We used the flashlight on my phone and found what was making the noise. I called 911. It was cold outside. We were concerned for the baby and very sad."

The Polk County Sheriff's Office responded to the call and Angel Grace LNU was transported to a hospital. She is in the care of the Florida Department of Children and Families. The Sheriff's Office is making every effort to locate the baby's mother. They responded immediately with drones, air surveillance and bloodhounds. They have taken DNA samplings, gone door-to-door and are using other undisclosed methods.

"This is one of those situations in a law officer's career that sticks with them forever," said Brian Bruchey, public information officer and former patrol deputy serving since 2007. "I have a son, and this kind of call touches home. It's tough to see defenseless victims like a baby. The most important thing is the baby is healthy; she has just a few insect bites and is now safe."

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd named the baby Angel Grace LNU because, he said, "she's as beautiful as an angel, it's by the grace of God she is not dead, and LNU is 'last name unknown.'"

"The state has a Safe Haven law," Bruchey explained, "and it's good that there is a program like A Safe Haven for Newborns -- that if a mother can't take care of a baby there is a Safe Haven: fire and police stations, hospitals -- wherever the Safe Haven sign is posted -- a mother can drop off her baby to a staff person and there are no questions asked."

"In this case, we don’t know the circumstances. It’s unfortunate the mother didn't get the help she needed ahead of time because she couldn't imagine the direction it went," he told OSV News. "Right now, we don't know the motivation. We wish the mother would have done it differently. Maybe she was the victim of human trafficking. There is a homeless camp nearby, and this is a migrant community. We don't know yet, but we’re working on it."

Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami said, "We can imagine the desperation that moves a mother to abandon her child. We thank God that A Safe Haven for Newborns is available. But there can be more options between abortion and abandonment."

"Walking with Moms in Need is a way to accompany mothers in crises,” he said, referring to a U.S. bishops' parish-based pro-life initiative. "A helping hand, a listening ear can help reveal to a despairing mother a ray of hope for a better tomorrow both for herself and her child."

All 50 states and several other countries have safe haven laws, offering mothers protection from prosecution for relinquishing their newborns in a safe manner. Twelve states offer professional training for a Safe Haven program, and there are programs already in place in several states.

Nick Silverio, founder of Florida's A Safe Haven for Newborns organization explained that in the period 2000 to 2021 nationally, 1,639 babies were recorded abandoned, but during that same timeframe, 4,709 were relinquished to Safe Havens giving them an opportunity to live.

"This did not have to happen," Silverio said. "Here in Florida, not only have we saved 360 precious newborns and assisted with seven in other states and one in Honduras, but we have also assisted over 6,000 women in their time of need/crisis."

"A Safe Haven for Newborns enriches my soul every single day," he told OSV News. "So many wonderful life-changing stories -- the thousands of moms we helped, hundreds of babies that now have a future and the hopes and dreams of a forever family fulfilled. What is more important and meaningful in life than saving a life, especially of a precious, innocent child?"

In March 2020, simultaneous with the pandemic, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops launched a new pro-life initiative called Walking with Moms in Need.

"It couldn't have come at a more appropriate time," said Kat Talalas, assistant director for pro-life communication at the USCCB. "Children home from school, the challenges of work, Moms needed support both financially and emotionally more than ever. The Catholic Church is here for Moms in Need. We want every person in every parish to know how to help, where to refer, how to support and befriend Moms in Need. We want people to know that in addition to walking with moms, we want more parishioners to see the vision of what it is to serve the Gospel of life."

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Laura Dodson writes for OSV News from Florida.



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