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Abandoned babies: Fire stations are now safe places

South King Fire and Rescue stations are now marked as a
South King Fire and Rescue stations are now marked as a 'Safe Place for Newborns.'
— image credit: Katie Adams, The Mirror

South King Fire and Rescue stations are now marked as a "Safe Place for Newborns."

Fire stations and hospital emergency rooms are considered under the law as safe places to leave a newborn baby, up to 72 hours old, where the parent can remain anonymous and not be prosecuted.

Newborns left this way will go into the state foster care system with the goal of adoption.

At any Safe Place location, the mother and the baby can receive medical care if needed, receive a list of resources, information on legal rights, a medical history form and a page for the parent to write a message to the baby. All of this falls under the Safety of Newborn Children's Law.

Last year, the law was amended to include that all facilities authorized to accept a relinquished baby must be easily identified with signage. However, no money was set aside for the new addition.

Through a grant from the Muckleshoot Charitable Fund, the Washington State Fire Chiefs and Safe Place for Newborns were able to purchase signs for all statewide locations.

The signs are up now at all of the department's 24-hour staffed stations except for Station 68 on 312th Street, which is a training station.

Abandoned babies in Federal Way

Since the law came into play, South King Fire and Rescue hasn't had any babies dropped off at the fire stations. However, Federal Way has still had some history with the issue.

In September 2008, 23-year-old Sarah Christianson left her newborn on the stoop at Steel Lake Presbyterian Church. The baby girl was transported to the hospital in fair condition and was estimated to be about 12 hours old at that time.

Video surveillance recorded the mother leaving the infant at the church at 2:16 a.m. Police began looking for the mother before she turned herself in. She later pleaded guilty to abandonment of a dependent person in the third degree and was given a 24-month deferred sentence and ordered to perform 200 hours of community service.

The baby was turned over to her father, who was contacted in Wisconsin while training with the National Guard. The Auburn man reported he did not know his ex-girlfriend was pregnant.

In another more tragic case, a 14-year-old Federal Way girl is currently charged with second-degree murder, accused of killing her baby shortly after birth April 9, 2009. Her case is still pending and she is receiving a mental evaluation to determine her competency to stand trial.

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