Document Type


Date of Award

Fall 1-31-2010

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Urban Systems - (Ph.D.)


Joint Program in Urban Systems

First Advisor

Jeffrey Robert Backstrand

Second Advisor

Barbara Caldwell

Third Advisor

Huey-Shys Chen

Fourth Advisor

Elizabeth Parietti

Fifth Advisor

Dennis E. Gale


Background: Safe Haven Infant Protection (SHIP) laws are variously-titled state-level laws that permit infants to be surrendered to designated persons and/or places in a generally anonymous fashion with prescribed limits on prosecution.

Objective: The objective of this study was to determine the number of infants surrendered under SHIP laws in the United States, detail the characteristics of surrendered Safe Haven (SH) infants and relinquishing users, and directly compare the SH infant/relinquishing user population and the discarded infant/discarding mother populations.

Methods: Non-profit reports and communications, government documents and communications, and media reports provided the basis of the national SH estimate. Data were collected over a three year period. A second data base combining 206 surrendered SH infant/relinquishing user cases from the states of California, Illinois, Michigan and New Jersey was built using data from multiple convenience-based government, non-profit and media sources. Third, a data base combining New Jersey's 33 SH infants and 27 discarded infants was created using data from the State of New Jersey and media sources.

Results: National Tally-A total 1,479 infants were identified as surrendered under SHIP law as of December 31, 2008. Four state sample-Both male and female infants have been surrendered. Infants of various ethnicities have also been surrendered. Most SH infants are given up on their first day of life and most are born in hospitals. Most relinquishing users chose a hospital for their surrender site. February and March are the most common months of SH infant surrender. The maternal age range for SH relinquishment is 15-42 years of age. New Jersey-Survival of SH infants is significantly higher than that of discarded infants. One-half of infants are discarded during the winter months and 1/3 of SH infants are relinquished in spring months. Black infants were statistically overrepresented among discarded and SH infants.

Conclusion: SH law is being used more than previously reported. SH law is being used as expected in relation to infant gender, infant race/ethnicity, mode of maternal age, and day of use. SH is being used by a broader range of maternal ages and by women who gave birth in hospital in numbers greater than expected. SHIP laws appear to reach a portion of their intended audience with SH infants surviving significantly more than discarded infants.



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