County Council seeks to raise awareness about safely surrendering newborns

April 1, 2014

By Staff

The tragedy of child abandonment was highlighted last month when the body of a newborn girl was found in a blanket near North Bend.

King County Councilmembers Reagan Dunn and Kathy Lambert want King County to become a leader in preventing abandonment by increasing awareness of the options available to safely surrender newborns.

On Feb. 12, a walker discovered the body of a girl in a wooded area in North Bend. Authorities named the newborn Kimball Doe because the body was found near Kimball Creek Bridge.

Kimball’s fate may have been averted if her parents had taken advantage of a state law that provides an alternative to abandonment that has been in effect since 2002.

In Washington state, parents can leave newborns with qualified individuals at hospitals, fire stations or federally designated rural health clinics. The Safety of Newborn Children Law allows parents to do so anonymously, up to 72 hours after the birth of a child, without fear of prosecution for abandonment.

Dunn and Lambert recently introduced a motion calling on the County Executive Dow Constantine to create a task force to examine ways of increasing awareness of the safe surrender alternative for parents.

The task force would consist of representatives from the executive and council, local cities, health care institutions, public health, the criminal justice system, human service agencies and first responders.

The motion calls for the task force to be in place by April 30 and to provide the council and Constantine recommendations that include:

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

The proposed motion calls on the task force to present its report to the County Council by Oct. 30.



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