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Sanford Worthington Medical Center: A 'Safe Place for Newborns'

WORTHINGTON -- Minnesota's Safe Place for Newborns law is designed to make sure there are safe and anonymous alternative places for mothers to leave their newborn children.One such place is Sanford Worthington Medical Center, which has put a focu...

WORTHINGTON - Minnesota’s Safe Place for Newborns law is designed to make sure there are safe and anonymous alternative places for mothers to leave their newborn children.
One such place is Sanford Worthington Medical Center, which has put a focus on Safe Place for Newborns over the course of the past few months.
“The law was enacted in Minnesota in 2000 and then amended in 2012,” explained Erica Berger, Manager of Social Services at SWMC. “When I shifted into this position, and with the growing community, we decided this would be a year to zero in and communicate this law with the public.”
Berger grew up in Worthington and graduated from Worthington High School before going off to earn her undergraduate degree at St. Olaf College in Northfield and her master’s in social work through a University of St. Thomas/St. Catherine University dual program. She then worked as a clinician with at risk youth in Denver, Colo., before returning to SWMC, where she started as a social worker before assuming her current post a year and a half ago.
The goal behind Safe Place for Newborns is simple, Berger said.
“Any mother, or designated person, can drop off a baby, from birth to seven days old, no questions asked, at a medical facility, an urgent care facility (during hours of operation) or through EMS service. They can leave the baby to be cared for in a safe environment until, ultimately, placement is found,” Berger said.
“The idea is that this will reduce fears (for mothers) of law enforcement becoming involved and legal issues arising and that babies’ lives are ultimately going to be saved.”
Berger noted that, for the most part, babies are accepted under Safe Place for Newborns with no questions asked.
“We cannot ask for the mother, designee, or baby’s identity. The only question that can be asked is if there are any medical things we should know,” she said. “Like if there was anything medically that happened during birth, or any conditions we should know about. The mother or designee can choose whether or not they wish to answer those question.”
Once a child is to delivered to SWMC, he or she is first examined by a physician. Once the child is medically cleared, the hospital would work with Nobles County Family Services to find emergency placement. Following that, permanency planning - which can include adoption proceeds - would begin.
The Safe Plans for Newborns law doesn’t apply if a mother admits herself to SWMC (or another medical facility) for the birth and provides identifying information, even if she wants to place her child under the law. Once a delivery occurs at a hospital, it creates a vital record and anonymity is no longer possible.
Berger said she has yet to hear of any circumstances where Safe Place for Newborns has been utilized in Worthington, though she does know it has been used in larger cities.
“Safe Place for Newborns is a safe and anonymous choice,” Berger said. “It’s a choice that can save lives.”

Related Topics: HEALTH
Ryan McGaughey arrived in Worthington in April 2001 as sports editor of The Daily Globe, and first joined Forum Communications Co. upon his hiring as a sports reporter at The Dickinson (North Dakota) Press in November 1998. McGaughey became news editor in Worthington in November 2002 and editor in August 2006.
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