• Dan Vallaro

Safe Haven Law

Often while watching movies and television shows I am broadsided by misinformation regarding adoption.

I have to admit that there are times that I have laughed at the portrayal of adoption, for example, when home study workers are portrayed as particularly aggressive and judgmental while interviewing a couple. I find this funny for two reasons: 1. The ECFA Adoption Workers are some of the nicest people I know and 2. I respect that adoptive parents do have to go through a lot of interviewing and house checking before being approved and licensed. However, more often my reaction to the media’s portrayal of adoption includes cringing or becoming irate. Most recently, I walked out of the room.

This recent culprit movie is called “Identity Theft.” Now, I wouldn’t recommend this movie regardless of its flagrant adoption misinformation. I’m sharing about the movie because I feel it is important to correct the misinformation provided in the movie. While the information shared in this blog won’t be as fast or far-reaching as the cinema, I hope it helps mitigate the damage.

Throughout the movie, the main character or “identity thief” (played by Melissa McCarthy) changes her name. Eventually, Melissa breaks down and shares that she doesn’t know her name because her mother left her at a police station when she was an infant. She goes on to explain she entered the foster care system and was bounced around from home to home. She says she was given a new name at each foster home and never knew her given name.

TRUTH AND MISINFORMATION: (based on Illinois law, specifically) You can find out more at

It is TRUE that it is legal for parents to hand their unharmed baby (up to 30 days old) to staff at a hospital, police or fire station, otherwise known as “Safe Havens.” The law that protects these parents and infants is known as the Safe Haven Law.

It is TRUE that a child’s name might not be given to the staff at the Safe Haven site. Parents are able to “Walk away, no questions asked.” No information is required. If desired, parents can provide medical or personal information during placement, or afterward.

It is FALSE that the baby would have entered traditional foster care and bounced from home to home. After placement, licensed adoption agencies take custody of the baby. Adoption agencies have loving, licensed, waiting parents that are able to adopt the baby very shortly after placement.

It is TRUE that placing a child in a Safe Haven can be a good, albeit difficult, decision to make for a baby. Choosing Safe Haven means choosing a safe, loving plan for an infant’s life.

It is TRUE that her parent cared about her. It took a lot of bravery to choose a Safe Haven instead of a life-threatening situation such as leaving the baby in a parking lot, dumpster, or unstaffed location such as a church. Adoptive Parents find ways of including the parents’ courage as a part of their child’s adoption story.

It is FALSE that, even if she was in foster care, she would have been given a new name at each home. The movie, unfortunately, also propels the FALSE stereotypes that all foster children are unloved, uncared for, difficult, “don’t need or have anyone,” and grow up to be criminals.


I hope mothers considering relinquishing a child at a staffed Safe Haven site know it is a legal, safe, loving option for an infant. I hope she will feel confident that what she wants, a permanent and loving home for her child, will be found through Safe Haven. And I hope the decision receives the respect it deserves.


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