Illinois has a Safe Haven law — but staff didn't know the baby was outside.
A newborn baby was found dead outside an Illinois fire station — where he could have been safely handed over, no questions asked.
Firehouse crew made the tragic discovery when they emerged from the North Orleans Street station at 5 AM on Saturday morning, to shovel snow.
They spotted a duffel bag covered in snow; inside was a baby boy, already deceased. It is not yet clear how long he had been outside in Chicago's freezing temperatures.
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"If the baby was placed there alive, that baby froze to death," a devastated Dawn Geras of the Save Abandoned Babies Foundation told ABC7. "This is Chicago. It gets cold at night. You can't leave a baby out to the elements."
While they vary from state to state, all US states have Safe Haven laws; in Illinois, parents can give up a baby at a designated place — such as a hospital, police station or fire station — within 30 days of birth, as long as the child has not been harmed, no questions asked... but at least one member of staff must be notified.
"It makes me feel like I failed," Geras said, tearing up. "There was one other woman out there that didn't know about the law or how to use it, and because of that, there's a dead baby on the doorsteps of a fire house. It shouldn't happen."
"They were so close to doing the right thing. Why didn't they take that extra two steps," she said. "I'm speechless. I don't know what to say anymore. I want to scream and yell."
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According to her organization, since the safe haven law passed in the state in 2001, 144 infants have been safely handed over; another further 89 were illegally abandoned, and of those, half did not survive.
Chicago police and the Cook County medical examiner's office are now investigating the little boy's death.
Just hours after finding him, Chicago Fire tweeted a reminder of the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act:
Illinois' Safe Haven law is a safe way for parents who make the difficult choice to give up a newborn for adoption. Handing over a newborn to a Firefighter or Paramedic directly at a firehouse can help facilitate the safest outcome. No questions asked and no judgment given.— Chicago Fire Media (@CFDMedia) January 15, 2022 @CFDMedia
"Illinois' Safe Haven law is a safe way for parents who make the difficult choice to give up a newborn for adoption," it said. "Handing over a newborn to a Firefighter or Paramedic directly at a firehouse can help facilitate the safest outcome. No questions asked and no judgment given."