Just the thought of an abandoned baby is enough to make your heart ache. When a newborn girl is found dead inside a cardboard box, complete strangers grieve.
So when Baby Rosie was laid to rest Wednesday in a donated white dress and casket, the two dozen mourners included the two Roseville city workers who discovered her while sweeping trash at a park after the July Fourth weekend, and the detective investigating her death.
Sadly, such cases are common enough that there’s a group that works with county governments to give abandoned and unidentified babies proper burials. Garden of Innocence, a nonprofit started in San Diego in 1998, plans its first Sacramento-area event on Saturday, The Bee’s Cynthia Hubert reported Thursday.
Baby Rosie should also be a reminder that these tragedies don’t have to happen.
California, like every other state, has a “safe surrender” law that allows parents who are unable or unwilling to care for newborns to give them up within 72 hours of birth. As long as the baby has not been abused or neglected, parents aren’t prosecuted for child abandonment. While they are asked to fill out a medical questionnaire, they can remain anonymous.
All 58 counties have surrender sites, including hospitals and many fire stations. If the parents don’t reclaim their baby within 14 days, the infant is put in foster care or made available for adoption. From January 2001, when the law took effect, through March 2013, 503 newborns were safely surrendered, including 46 in Sacramento County, according to state figures.
But too often, unwanted newborns – no one tracks exactly how many – are found dead. Clearly, the word isn’t getting out to all the new parents who are in crisis.
Public awareness efforts were more aggressive early on, though in 2010 the state launched a toll-free hotline and put a voluntary donation on income tax forms to fund outreach. Anything more that social service agencies and nonprofits can do to raise awareness could help save lives.