A Crystal Lake family is living proof that the Illinois safe-haven law work.
Zoe, a 9-year-old Crystal Lake resident, is one of more than 100 children who have been brought to hospitals, fire houses and police stations by parents unable to care for their baby.
Zoe, whose last name, as well as her mother’s, was withheld to protect the family’s identity, stood on a step-stool to reach a podium in Chicago on Saturday and told of her thankfulness for the safe-haven program.
“When I was born, my birth mother wasn’t ready to be a mom, but she loved me and she knew about safe haven,” Zoe said. “So she took me to the hospital so I could be adopted. Now, I have six brothers, two sisters, three dogs and one cat. And they love me.”
In 2001, Illinois was one of the first states to adopt a safe-haven law. It allows parents a legal option to give up their child rather than abandoning him or her. Every state now has a similar law on the books, notes the Save Abandoned Babies Foundation, a non-profit based in Illinois
Under Illinois law, babies up to 1 month old can be taken to a hospital, police station or fire stations with no threat of prosecution and no questions asked.
“The reality is most people still don’t know about the safe-haven law,” said Dawn Geras, founder of the Save Abandoned Babies Foundation.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said that while more education may be need, the law is making an impact.
“There are 100 opportunities for a life that otherwise might not have been,” Madigan said.
The 100th safe haven baby was brought to a fire station a few days ago. Two more babies have since been brought to a safe haven.
Once a baby is left at a safe haven, the infant is normally taken to a hospital to be checked out and placed with adoptive families. The placement can happen within just a few hours, with the child never going into foster care.
Zoe’s mother, Tanya, said while she and Zoe were getting attention Saturday, the hero of the Crystal Lake family’s tale is the woman who realized her plight and took her daughter to a safe haven.
“Literally, Zoe was home that day,” Tanya said. “We hit the store on the way out. (We) grabbed a crib, grabbed the bedding, grabbed everything else, (and) had her in our arms four hours later in her favorite yellow blanket.”
Tanya said Zoe is doing well, currently in the fourth grade, playing volleyball, creating artwork and dabbling in the kitchen, even making her own jambalaya.
Also speaking at Saturday’s news conference was Shawn Dunnett, 39, of Geneva, whose 4-year-old daughter, Riley, was a safe-haven baby.
“We weren’t really sure it was ever going to happen, Shawn Dunnett said of being on an adoption waiting list for five years.
He said he loves Riley’s endless energy and her dancing and renditions of songs from the movie “Frozen.”
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