CHICAGO (CBS) — Even with a law on the books to prevent it and dozens of places a baby can be relinquished completely anonymously across the city, it’s more likely babies will be abandoned illegally in Chicago. That’s just what happened to one little boy still at Lurie Children’s Hospital.
“My thing is why they didn’t [go] to the police station? Why they didn’t [they go] to the fire department when the fire department is just steps away?” said Belinda Valdovilos, who lives near where the baby was found in the Hermosa neighborhood.
The abandoned baby was just hours old and already close to death, officials said. He was cold and still attached to the umbilical cord.
With Illinois’ Safe Haven law in place, a parent can anonymously relinquish a newborn at a designated safe haven with no repercussions. The fire station just blocks from where the baby was abandoned is one of those places.
“People need to know that there is help,” said Dawn Geras, founder and president of the Save Abandoned Babies Foundation. “The law says that you can turn in an unharmed baby 30 days old or younger to staff at a police, fire or hospital.”
In Cook County, it’s more likely a baby is illegally abandoned than safely relinquished through the law.
Of abandonments in Illinois, 73% happen in Cook County. There have been 83 since 2001. And 52% didn’t survive.
“There have been 131 babies saved under the law. This is just in Illinois. None of those parents have been tracked down or in trouble for this,” Geras said.
The processes for the two scenarios are totally different.
A baby found illegally abandoned leads to a criminal investigation, and the baby ultimately ends up in the foster care system.
For a baby turned over to a safe haven, an adoption agency can match the baby with a family, almost immediately in some cases.
“This little boy over at Lurie’s is needing a lot of medical care,” Geras said. “I mean, he almost didn’t survive. If he had been turned in? He’d be getting ready to go home to a family to celebrate Mother’s Day with a new mother.”
According to the Chicago Fire Department, the baby boy is stable.
When he’s released he will be in the care of the Department of Children and Family Services.