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How babies can legally be abandoned in South Carolina

Daniel's Law allows parents to surrender infants to a safe haven if they're 60 days old or younger and unharmed.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Earlier this week, a child was surrendered under The Safe Haven for Abandoned Babies Act in the Upstate. 

The act, also known as Daniel's Law, allows people to legally surrender infants if they’re unharmed. Since 2009, 48 babies have been safely given over to authorities, the latest one being this week.

Daniel's Law is a safety net for parents to abandon their child, as long as the infant is under 60 days old and they’re unharmed. The baby must be surrendered to a Safe Haven; that can be a hospital, place of worship, or a fire or police station.

RELATED: Infant girl surrendered at South Carolina hospital under Daniel's Law

"I want that mom to know that you're not a coward for giving up your child. You're really just trying to make the best decision for that child," Connelly-Anne Ragley with the state Department of Social Services told News19.

Daniel’s Law is named after an infant who survived being buried in a South Carolina landfill after birth. Nurses named him Daniel while he was at the hospital.

When explaining the law, Ragley said it's meant to save babies that may otherwise be left for dead. Once a baby is surrendered, DSS takes custody.

"First and foremost, we want to make sure that child is safe, make sure that they're healthy, make sure that there's no medical needs that need to be addressed. From there, they will be placed in a foster home, and then we would move forward with legal action to make sure that that child and that infant can be adopted," said Ragley.

RELATED: Suspect arrested in killing of 11-year-old Lexington County girl

DSS reports the most babies they’ve seen surrendered within a year has been six: Both in 2016 and 2019. 

Six months into 2021, four babies have been surrendered so far. All surrenders this year have been in the Upstate. 

In May 2019, the McLeod Regional Medical Center in Florence accepted a baby under the law.

"What we try to do is ask the mother or the surrendering person, any information about the baby," said Tammy Abel with McLeod Health. "The purpose of that is not to punish anyone or report anything, but we might want to have some information just to know a little bit about the health status of the baby."

Abel told News19 that hospital staff are trained to handle surrenders under Daniel's Law.

"We want to treat the surrendering person or guardian of the baby with utmost respect because again they are making a decision, you know that they feel is in the best interest of their baby, and we want them to feel safe and secure in that decision," she said.

After being surrendered, officials ensure the infant is safe and healthy. Then DSS goes through the legal process of finding a foster home and getting the baby adopted.

Help for parents:

For more information on safe havens for babies, click here.

If you're weighing the options of abortion or adoption, American Adoptions provides information on both processes in South Carolina. 

DSS provides information on how to become a foster parent. To learn more about foster care, click here.