Substitute House Bill No. 5023

Public Act No. 00-207

An Act Concerning Safe Havens.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. (NEW) Each hospital operating an emergency room shall designate all members of the emergency room nursing staff as employees authorized to take physical custody of an infant pursuant to section 2 of this act. There shall be a designated employee on duty at each hospital emergency room during regular business hours. There shall be a designated place inside such hospital emergency room where physical custody may be taken.

Sec. 2. (NEW) (a) An employee designated pursuant to section 1 of this act shall take physical custody of any infant thirty days or younger if the parent or lawful agent of the parent voluntarily surrenders physical custody of the infant to such designated employee unless the parent or agent clearly expresses an intent to return for the infant.

(b) The designated employee may request the parent or agent to provide the name of the parent or agent and information on the medical history of the infant and parents. The parent or agent is not required to provide such name or information. The designated employee may provide the parent or agent with a numbered identification bracelet to link the parent or agent to the infant. The bracelet shall be used for identification only and shall not be construed to authorize the person who possesses the bracelet to take custody of the infant on demand. The designated employee shall provide the parent or agent with a pamphlet describing the process established under this act.

Sec. 3. (NEW) (a) Not more than twenty-four hours after taking physical custody of the infant the designated employee shall notify, in accordance with the provisions of sections 17a-101a to 17a-101d, inclusive, of the general statutes, the Department of Children and Families of such custody.

(b) The Commissioner of Children and Families shall assume the care and control of the infant immediately upon receipt of notice under subsection (a) of this section and shall take any action authorized under state law to achieve safety and permanency for the infant.

(c) Any infant in the care and control of the commissioner under the provisions of this section shall be considered to be in the custody of the department.

Sec. 4. (NEW) (a) If a person claiming to be a parent or agent of an infant left with a designated employee under section 2 of this act submits a request to the Commissioner of Children and Families for reunification with the infant, the commissioner may identify, contact and investigate such person or agent to determine if such reunification is appropriate or if the parental rights of the parent should be terminated.

(b) Information concerning a parent or agent or infant left with a designated employee shall be confidential except that notwithstanding any provision of the general statutes, such employee shall provide to the Commissioner of Children and Families all medical history information provided by the parent.

(c) Possession of a bracelet linking the parent or agent to an infant left with a designated employee if parental rights have not been terminated creates a presumption the parent or person has standing to participate in a custody hearing for the infant under chapter 319a of the general statutes and does not create a presumption of maternity, paternity or custody.

Sec. 5. (NEW) The Department of Children and Families, in consultation with the Attorney General, shall prepare a public information program about the process established under this act. Such program shall include distribution to mothers and agents of a pamphlet that has the following information: (1) An explanation of the process established by sections 1 to 5, inclusive, of this act; (2) the legal ramifications and protections for the mother or agent; (3) what will happen to the infant; (4) how to contact the Department of Children and Families with questions and the procedures for reunification; (5) the timelines involved in termination of parental rights and adoption; and (6) any other relevant information.

Sec. 6. Section 53-21 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(a) Any person who (1) wilfully or unlawfully causes or permits any child under the age of sixteen years to be placed in such a situation that the life or limb of such child is endangered, the health of such child is likely to be injured or the morals of such child are likely to be impaired, or does any act likely to impair the health or morals of any such child, or (2) has contact with the intimate parts, as defined in section 53a-65, of a child under the age of sixteen years or subjects a child under sixteen years of age to contact with the intimate parts of such person, in a sexual and indecent manner likely to impair the health or morals of such child, or (3) permanently transfers the legal or physical custody of a child under the age of sixteen years to another person for money or other valuable consideration or acquires or receives the legal or physical custody of a child under the age of sixteen years from another person upon payment of money or other valuable consideration to such other person or a third person, except in connection with an adoption proceeding that complies with the provisions of chapter 803, shall be guilty of a class C felony.

(b) The act of a parent or agent leaving an infant thirty days or younger with a designated employee pursuant to section 2 of this act shall not constitute a violation of this section.

Sec. 7. Section 53-23 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(a) Any person having the charge of any child under the age of six years who exposes [it] such child in any place, with intent wholly to abandon [it] such child, shall be fined not more than five hundred dollars and imprisoned not more than five years.

(b) The act of a parent or agent leaving an infant thirty days or younger with a designated employee pursuant to section 2 of this act shall not constitute a violation of this section.

Approved June 1, 2000