Arkansas has a Safe Haven law. This allows someone to relinquish a child into safe care without facing any prosecution for neglect or endangerment of the child.

The terms of the law

Any child up to 30 days old can be taken to specific locations with 24 hour care:

  • a hospital emergency room
  • a fire department, including (as of 2023) volunteer fire departments with 24-hour staff
  • a law enforcement office, such as a police or sheriff’s office

The baby must be given to a worker, not left at the door. The exception to this rule is if there is a “baby box” or designated newborn safety device. These boxes can be found in more than a dozen Arkansas cities.


When a baby is put into the box, the door automatically locks and a 911 call is placed. A healthcare professional collects the baby in an average of two minutes, and the baby is placed in the care of the Arkansas Department of Human Services. DHS makes sure that the children are not on a missing persons list.

While the baby boxes are available in a number of fire stations, babies can be turned over t any fire station, law enforcement office, or emergency room. The person who brings the baby in can remain anonymous and does not need to speak to anyone. The workers in these places know that the individual does not have to answer any questions, but they will offer help with medical care or counseling.

If the person who drops off the baby provides any information, such as the child’s name or birthplace, the workers will document the details. They will also offer a questionnaire to fill out and mail in. If the child is left with a firefighter or law enforcement officer, they will take the baby to an emergency room for medical care as needed.

The object of the Safe Haven law is to reduce illegal abandonment of infants. All 50 states currently have laws of this kind, though the details vary.

Adopting a Safe Haven baby

Once a baby has been relinquished to an appropriate worker, the DHS will initiate a dependency-neglect petition. For two weeks, the agency must publish the details of the child’s relinquishment. The baby must be available for 30 days to a claim by a parent. This ensures that a parent whose child was abducted has an opportunity to find and reclaim the baby.

After the 30 day period, the rights of the birth parents are terminated and the baby is available for adoption. The process for adopting these babies is the same as other adoptions. The prospective parents need to have a home study, and to file a petition for adoption with the court. The child is not adopted from the hospital or fire station, but from the foster home or other living arrangement arranged by DHS.

Should you consider Safe Haven for your baby?

Safe Haven laws are intended to protect babies. They provide a safe and legal way for a desperate parent to cope with a situation that may seem impossible. However, a private adoption can give your baby a better start. Many families are waiting to bring a child into their home, and a newborn can go to a loving home immediately.

Call Heimer Law at (479) 225-9725 for a free consultation.

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