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Police say baby deposit legal

A man who dropped off a 2-day-old boy at a fire station last week did so legally under Nevada’s Safe Haven law, Las Vegas police said Tuesday.

Officer Barbara Morgan, a spokeswoman with the Metropolitan Police Department, said no charges will be pursued against the unidentified man who left the infant under the care of a county firefighter Friday at a station near Lake Mead and Nellis boulevards.

The Safe Haven law, passed in 2001, allows parents to legally leave a child within 30 days of birth with an emergency service provider.

Advocates of the law called what happened a textbook example of how it was meant to work.

Previously, despite the law, babies had continued to be found, abandoned or dead, in trash bins, restrooms and elsewhere in Clark County.

"This is the first time people are talking about it as a success story instead of people talking about it as ‘Oh, someone should have,’" said Assemblywoman April Mastroluca, D-Henderson, who was a staunch supporter of the bill before it became law.

The man who dropped off the baby identified himself as a relative of the mother. State law allows a child’s parent to direct someone else to leave a child with an emergency provider.

Morgan said police don’t know the identity of the man but have received no indication the child is missing.

"If a 2-day-old baby was kidnapped, the parents would be screaming from the rooftops," Morgan said. "We haven’t heard anything like that."

Christine Skorupski, a spokeswoman for Clark County Child Protective Services, said last week’s incident marks the first time in the county that a child has legally been handed off under the law.

Skorupski said Tuesday afternoon that the baby remained at University Medical Center. Protective services has custody of the child, she said.

Skorupski said in general terms, if parents want to reclaim custody of a child passed off, under the law they will have to go through the courts.

If a person allows the provider to take possession of the child, that child is presumed abandoned. The law adds that unless the parent contacts the child welfare agency, a local child action will be taken to terminate his or her parental rights.

Scott Allison, a spokesman for the Clark County Fire Department, said the man did not leave any information regarding where the child’s parents could be reached.

Skorupski said that a baby received by her agency under the law most likely could be placed in foster care or given up for adoption.

Tracey Johnson, with the nonprofit National Safe Haven Alliance based in Falls Church, Va., said every state has some version of a Safe Haven law on the books. Johnson said Texas in 1998 was the first state to pass such a law. She said that since then, more than 2,000 babies nationwide have been handed to authorities without parents facing legal repercussions.

Johnson said that according to her organization’s records, Nevada has had one such baby drop-off before Friday’s incident. That instance occurred in Northern Nevada.

Johnson was pleased to learn that another parent took advantage of the law. "By all accounts, this is a great example of the law actually working," she said.

She added that the law also benefits unprepared mothers.

"They can go on living without the stain of arrest or prosecution."

On Mother’s Day 2008, a baby boy was found dead, shrouded in a pillowcase and towels inside a gift bag in a restroom at the Excalibur. The baby still had its umbilical cord intact. Police have yet to identify the newborn’s parents.

In 2009, 19-year-old Carmela Camero was arrested after police allege she suffocated her baby at her Henderson home. Police also tied her to dumping her stillborn infant in 2006 at a trash bin at the MGM Mirage.

Camero, who was 16 at the time, told detectives she panicked after giving birth in a hotel room. She wrapped the baby in a towel and tossed the bundle in a trash bin outside her room, police said.

In that case, police did not recommend charges against Camero because the child was stillborn. She is being held in the Clark County Detention Center without bail on a charge of murder for the 2009 incident.

Mastroluca said the Silver State’s Safe Haven law has been effective. "Even one baby saved is a success," she said.

Contact reporter Antonio Planas at aplanas@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4638.

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