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Wichita Coalition Launches Campaign To Prevent Newborn Abandonment

Evan Pflugradt
The Wichita Coalition for Child Abuse Prevention is putting 53 signs up around Sedgwick County to designate Safe Haven locations.

The Wichita Coalition for Child Abuse Prevention has launched a campaign designed to prevent newborn abandonment.

Under Kansas law, instead of abandoning an unwanted baby, a parent can leave an uninjured child with someone on duty at an officially designated Safe Haven location without fear of prosecution.

Infants who are 60 days old or younger and show no signs of intentional abuse can be dropped off at any area Safe Haven location, including all city police stations, fire departments, hospitals, and city or county health departments. The coalition is in the process of adding 53 outdoor signs around the city to distinguish Safe Haven locations.

Cindy Miles, executive director for the Nonprofit Chamber of Service, raised $2,000 in private funds for the signs. She said the nonprofit is still accepting donations to have signs placed at all Safe Haven locations in Sedgwick County.

Capt. Travis Rakestraw of the Wichita Police Department said no children have been placed into the system in the last three years.

“If you look across the country, though, the spirit of this law is basically to help prevent incidents from happening," he said at a briefing Wednesday. "If we could prevent one (case), that’s what we’re looking for.”

Law enforcement will evaluate the health and safety of any infant dropped off at a Safe Haven location, and get the child appropriate medical care. Parents can choose to share the medical history of the child, but are not required to under the law.

Once the child is deemed to have a clean bill of health, they’ll then be placed into police protective custody, like the Wichita Children’s Home, Rakestraw said.

“This law has been around for a number of years," he said. "We just feel we need to put some energy back into it and get it back into public view."

Safe Havens are protected under a 2013 Kansas law; it was recently expanded to protect children up to 60 days old, from a previous 45 days.

Evan Pflugradt is an intern with KMUW's News Lab. Follow him on Twitter @EvPflu.