The goals of this study were to identify the socioeconomic influences that may lead to newborn abandonment and the attributes common to individuals who abandon their infants, to develop an understanding of the legislative issues affecting the abandonment of newborns by state, and to describe an emergency care program designed to preserve newborn life.
A retrospective review of case files, publications, and headline news was undertaken to identify commonalties among individuals who abandon their infants. Accurate statistical data about this issue are nonexistent; however, extrapolations can be made from documented cases. Predictors of abandonment assist healthcare workers in identifying and preventing the needless deaths of newborn infants through early education and prevention programs. If these children survive, they often become the challenges of emergency care staff.
There are now at least 46 states that have proposed or enacted legislation related to infant abandonment. The laws are designed to promote the safe surrender of newborns to designated child protective agencies, including emergency departments. These legislative controls now regulate safe havens to accept newborns that would otherwise be abandoned.
There is still much to learn about infant abandonment. A national database to compile statistics about the incidence of abandonment is currently not available. Research is necessary to validate the findings collected in retrospective reviews. The choices parents make between the options of abandoning versus surrendering the infant to a safe haven require further study. Preventative programs and education of the public and particularly of the high-risk groups require a greater emphasis on improving child protection procedures. Programs in emergency departments must be developed to expedite care and to support and protect life.