Bastard Nation: the Adoptee Rights Organization
PO Box 4607
New Windsor, New York 12553-7845
TO: Senate Family and Children Services Committee
FROM: Marley Greiner, Executive Chair
RE: SB60: Amendments to the Indiana Safe Haven Law – Comments
DATE: January 25, 2024
Bastard Nation: the Adoptee Rights Organization is the largest adoptee civil rights organization in the United States. We support only full unrestricted access for all adopted persons to their original birth certificates (OBC) and related documents.
By this letter we are submitting comments on SB60 a bill that addresses changes to Indiana’s current Safe Haven/Safe Haven Baby Box law that went into effect a few months ago under SB345.
Although we oppose unequivocally Safe Haven and Baby Boxes implementation, we believe that SB60 addresses and clarifies one of the big problems created by SB345 that BN and other adoptee rights organizations and individual advocates objected to last year.
SB345 opened the potential for “legal” child trafficking in the state by authorizing emergency service providers the option to bypass DCS entirely and turn over newborns “surrendered” anonymously at their locations via safe haven protocols to licensed child-placing agencies, aka private adoption agencies, that then proceed with adoption placement without DCS knowledge or involvement. The bill did not even specify procedures to identify and choose agencies or contain agency qualifications and responsibilities.
SB345’s language was murky and widely interpreted to mean that emergency providers were not required to report the incident to DCS, and after medical clearance, they could give the newborn to the private adoption agency of their choice for immediate placement with presumptive adoptive parents. An August 11, 2023 WTHR-TV news report indicated that a baby girl boxed at Carmel Fire Station #345 a few days earlier was living with her “new parents” within 12 hours of boxing thanks to a private adoption agency. Other cases seem to still be going through DCS.
This lack of direction in the current law is confusing at best and raises the concern of possible corruption. A financial or personal incentive could influence a service provider to contact a private adoption agency, not DCS. Moreover, the law contains no requirement that the emergency provider even inform DCS of a SH/SHBB event, hindering the state’s ability to regulate SH/SHBB abandonment care procedures, oversee and track cases, and determine the number of cases. In other words, it undermines the state and the public’s ability to know if the controversial SH/SHBB law works and is used.
Adoption agencies, we argued, last year could coordinate SH/SHBB abandonment through Safe Haven Baby Boxes Inc or through relationships the organization develops with emergency providers. Most baby SH/SHBB “surrenders” happen not at hospitals, but at fire stations and other emergency service sites, and SHBB Inc enjoys an extremely close relationship with fire fighters and EMTs on a business and social level. Those relationships could influence personnel to bypass DCS and go directly to “friendly” adoption agencies. Monica Kelsey, founder and director of SHBB Inc has actually stated in social media that “unfortunately SHBB has no control over adoption placement.”
BN and other activist organizations are concerned that these personal relationships could keep the state from monitoring SH/SHBB abandonment and the protection of the legal rights of surrendered infants, biological parents, and extended family members.
We would like to see the adoption agency option removed entirely from SB60 and state law. Private child placing agencies, unlike the state, have a pecuniary interest in carrying out adoption placements, and charge adoptive parents exorbitant fees, while state fees are minimum.
SB60 language currently , however, does not remove private agencies from the equation, but it sets rules for selection: (1) private agencies are required to opt in to receive notification from emergency medical services when a SH/SHBB “surrender” occurs and (2) the state is required to create a directory of those agencies available to emergency providers. Although the language is vague, since DCS is required keep track of cases, iit appears that private agencies will be required to notify DCS when they take custody of a SH/SHBB infant; thus giving the state the power to minimally oversee cases to an extent not required by current law.
Importantly, SB60 prohibits private agencies from taking cases from emergency service providers with whom they or an employee have a financial relationship through gift or donation:
- ... a licensed child placing agency has a prohibited financial relationship with an emergency medical services provider if, at the time the licensed child placing agency assumes custody of a safe haven infant from the emergency medical services provider, the licensed child placing agency or an employee of the licensed child placing agency: (1) is engaged in a financial relationship with the emergency medical services provider; (2) has made a gift or donation to the emergency medical services provider; that could be construed as providing an incentive for the emergency medical services provider to give custody of the safe haven infant to the licensed child placing agency. (b) If a licensed child placing agency assumes custody of a safe haven infant from an emergency medical services provider with which the licensed child placing agency has a prohibited financial relationship, the licensed child placing agency: (1) may not place the safe haven infant under section 5 of this chapter; and (2) shall, without unnecessary delay after the licensed child placing agency knows, or reasonably should know, that the licensed child placing agency has a prohibited financial relationship with the emergency medical services provider, transfer custody of the safe haven infant to the department. [DCS}
Unfortunately, the bill does not provide penalties for private agencies that fail to comply with that requirement nor does it contain private agency requirements and qualifications for emergency SH/SHBB placement. We suggest that the bill be amended to include penalties and qualifications.
We are happy that SB60 continues to require that DCS and private agencies for 3 weeks in a row, publish notice in the print or electronic edition of a newspaper of general circulation in the county and contiguous counties where the “surrender” occurs, but are concerned that this now applies only to Indiana counties.
In theory, SH/SHBB “surrenders” are anonymous. No one is supposed to know anything about the cases, but SHBB Inc often has inside information. It has, in fact, announced in social media and the press that some infants have come through the Chicago Corridor; that is, are likely done by an Illinois parent. There is no reason to believe the cross-border incidents involving parents from Michigan, Kentucky, and Ohio have not taken place either. According to SHBB Inc, the mother of one infant drove from 2 states away. We suggest that publication pertaining to cases that occur in border counties be extended to those contiguous counties across state lines when appropriate.
We support DCS tracking all SH/SHBB cases and suggest that the bill be amended to require DCS to publish online an annual report of SH/SHBB cases such is done in Illinois, Georgia, and California. The report would delineate traditional SH and SHBB cases.
Finally, we support the requirement that DCS and private child placing agencies file an affidavit attesting that they have contacted the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Indiana Clearinghouse for Information on Missing Children and Missing Endangered Adults and that these sources have notified them that the SH/SHBB infant is not reported missing. Unfortunately, some women live under domestic violence or trafficking conditions and cannot file a report if their babies are taken from them.
Thank you for re-visiting this issue. Our support is cautious and predicated only on the restrictions put on private agency procedures. If private agency specs are amended out or more privileges amended in, we will, of course, pull this support.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.