Daniel’s Law (Part Two)

daniel's lawWhen life’s unfortunate circumstances so impact a mother that she must decide that she simply cannot raise her newborn infant, she may leave the infant in the care of a safe haven.

A third party may simply be better able to provide for the health, education and welfare of the child.

Daniel’s Law (see Part One for an introduction) imposes certain affirmative duties on the safe haven. Because the focus of this blog is to inform the families of children who may be exposed to abuse or neglect as to their rights, these affirmative duties will not be discussed in detail here. Generally, however, these include:

1.         The safe haven must ask the person leaving the infant to identify any parent of the infant.

2.         The safe haven also must attempt to obtain information concerning the infant’s background and medical history, including, but is not limited to, information concerning the use of a controlled substance by the infant’s mother, provided that any information regarding the use of a controlled substance by the infant’s mother is not admissible as evidence of the unlawful use of a controlled substance in any court proceeding.

3.         Any identifying information disclosed by the person leaving the infant must be kept confidential by the safe haven and disclosed to no one other than DSS. However, if a court determines that the immunity provisions do not apply, the safe haven may disclose the information as permitted by confidentiality protections applicable to records of the safe haven, if the safe haven has such confidentiality protections for records.

The Department of Social Services shall maintain confidentiality of this information in accordance with S.C. Code section 63-7-1990. Subsection H provides “A safe haven and its agents, and any health care professionals practicing within a hospital or hospital outpatient facility, are immune from civil or criminal liability for any action authorized by this section, so long as the safe haven, or health care professional, complies with all provisions of this section.”

4.         If the safe haven is a hospital or hospital outpatient facility, it shall perform any act necessary to protect the physical health or safety of the infant. Any other safe haven shall, as soon as possible, but no later than six hours after receiving an infant, transport the infant to a hospital or hospital outpatient facility.

5.         The hospital or hospital outpatient facility shall notify DSS that it has taken temporary physical custody of the infant by the end of the close of the first business day after the date on which it takes possession of the infant.

The Law also imposes certain affirmative duties on DSS.  Generally, these include:

1.         DSS has legal custody of the infant immediately upon receipt of notice from the hospital. Assumption of custody by the department pursuant to this subsection does not constitute emergency protective custody, and the department is not required to initiate a child protective services investigation solely because an infant comes into its custody under this subsection.

2.         Immediately after receiving notice from a hospital, DSS must contact the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division for assistance in assuring that the infant is not a missing infant.

3.         Within forty-eight hours after taking legal custody of the infant, DSS must publish notice in a newspaper of general circulation in the area and send a news release to broadcast and print media in the area designed to inform the public and help locate persons wishing to assert parental rights to the infant.

4.         Within forty-eight hours after obtaining legal custody of the infant, DSS must initiate legal action to terminate the parental rights of the parents.

A decision to leave an infant with a safe haven is a very personal decision.  But with the correct information, a mother may feel some comfort in making a decision she believes to be in the child’s best interests.

For some history regarding the law see “Daniel’s Story–Daniel’s Law in South Carolina.” Fair warning, brace yourself.  Thankfully, there’s now another option.

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Written by

Graves H. Wilson, Jr. worked as a staff attorney for the South Carolina Department of Social Services in Dorchester County, South Carolina from 2005 to 2011. He now represents clients involved in DSS cases--parents, grandparents, or other interested parties. He practices state-wide and accepts cases in all South Carolina counties.

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