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Council receives recommendations from panel reviewing ways to increase awareness on safely relinquishing newborns

Summary

Task Force to brief Council Committee on its report

Story

A panel created by the Metropolitan King County Council to examine ways of increasing awareness of options available for parents to legally and safely give up a newborn has delivered its report to the Council.

The task force grew out of legislation adopted by the Council earlier this year after the body of a newborn girl was found wrapped in a blanket within a half mile of a hospital in the North Bend area. The infant, believed to be full term, was named Baby Kimball after the bridge near where she was found.

“I have been eagerly awaiting the findings of this important task force,” said Councilmember Reagan Dunn, lead sponsor of the motion that created the task force. “I look forward to reviewing the hard work of the task force and finding a way forward to help avoid these kinds of tragedies in the future.”

“I’m grateful to all the members of the task force for their work on this important issue. Life is precious and we need to do everything we can to prevent needless tragedy and to make people aware of options,” said motion co-sponsor Councilmember Kathy Lambert. “We need to be sure everyone knows a safe and legal place where they can take a newborn that they cannot take care of.”

Safe alternatives exist under state law. The Safety of Newborn Children Law was adopted in Washington State in 2002 and allows parents to leave newborns with qualified individuals at hospitals, fire stations or federally designated rural health clinics anonymously up to 72 hours after the birth of a child without fear of prosecution for abandonment.

The goal of the task force, which was composed of representatives from public health, criminal justice agencies and human service programs, was to provide the Council and County Executive recommendations that include:

• How the County can engage in a collaborative campaign on educating service providers and the public about the Safety of Newborn Children Law;
• Ways to work with the state to obtain useful, timely data on instances of safe transfer of newborns and newborn abandonment;
• Examining whether the program should expand through state legislation the locations where newborns can be accepted.

“The state law regarding safety for newborns has been on the books for over ten years. The work done by the task force will help inform the King County community of its existence and how to use the law, thus saving additional lives in the future,” said task force chair Paul Cowles, President of Safe Place for Newborns. “The task force's recommendations will assist us in saving future lives. We want to thank the King County Council for establishing the task force to work on this important issue.”

“The state's Safety of Newborn Children Law is a very important law that appears to be known by so few,” said Verna Seal, task force co-chair and a member of the Tukwila City Council. “Hopefully the work that the task force has done will help the county spread the word to individuals in a time of need.”

The task force will be briefing the County Council’s Law Justice, Health and Human Services Committee on December 9 and will present its findings and recommendations.



The members of the Newborn Task Force
Contact the Council
Main phone:
206-477-1000
TTY/TDD:
206-296-1024
Fax:
206-296-0198