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What Are Safe Surrender Laws in NC? 

In exchange for leaving the baby with an appropriate caretaker, pursuant to the safe surrender laws, the state will grant immunity from criminal charges. See NC Gen. Stat. §14-322.3. This safe surrender is a form of legal abandonment. Infants are especially vulnerable to neglect, and all states now have legislation allowing parents to legally abandon a baby and/or child if done according to the law.  North Carolina’s safe surrender law was passed in 2001. NC Gen. Stat. §7B-500.

Why Do We Have These Laws?

The purpose of the law is to encourage people who do not want a baby, or are unable to care for him or her, to surrender the infant in a safe manner rather than leaving the baby in bathrooms, on someone’s doorstep or some other type of abandonment. In our state, only a parent may safely abandon an infant, which must occur within seven days of birth. Any adult may accept the baby, but health care providers, social workers, law enforcement and emergency medical service workers are legally required to take an infant who is legally abandoned. The person accepting the infant must contact CPS immediately.

What Happens to the Parents?

A parent who is abandoning the baby has no obligation to tell anyone his or her name or other information about the baby. However, the  person accepting baby may ask questions, but has to notify the parent he or she has no legal obligation to disclose the information. A parent who abandons the baby in an unsafe manner, such as leaving the infant exposed in the woods in the winter, will not receive immunity from criminal prosecution. A parent whose infant dies as a result of such wanton and willful behavior may face charges of murder or manslaughter if the child dies. Safely surrendering an infant does not change the legal rights of the other parent, nor does it act cut off rights of the other parent.  In the case of the civil court making a ruling on the child’s custody and care, the judge will treat a safe surrender case the same way, ruling on whether there was neglect and awarding custody or guardianship as appropriate.


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