Cry for help

You come to church for an activity one night. You walk into the building and there, in the foyer, is an infant carseat with a note attached.

The note reads:


What do you do?


  1. FWIW (and without spoiling the speculation that might be raised by your question), I think that the police investigation and the cessation of that investigation were both correctly handled, with all the right motivations. It isn’t often that bureaucracy gets it right.

  2. Ardis, I think you are right, which is partly why I posted this. It’s an example (from what I have heard) of people acting out of genuine compassion.

  3. Take care of the childs immediate needs and call the police at the same time.

    Maybe cry a little bit for the mother and the child.

  4. Last Lemming says:

    What am I missing? Why is this a difficult question?

  5. LL, maybe it’s not a difficult question. It’s certainly a difficult situation, in any event, and a timely one involving Mormons, hence the post.

  6. I would do exactly what the mother wanted. And I second Ardis. Bless that young woman’s heart for doing the best she could, and leaving that baby where she know it would be found and taken care of- instead of something far, far worse.

  7. Bbell hit it right on. Check the baby to make sure it’s alright. Call the police. Maybe call the bishop too.

  8. You didn’t say if there was a baby in the carseat.

  9. I was chatting about this with a friend of mine, and I came to the conclusion that the end results here are positive — the boy ends up with a good home and the mother can have a life with real opportunities. But what’s missing here is that nothing can be done for the mother now, whereas in the system she has access to counseling and support. My heart goes out to her — she’s going through something really powerful and she’s totally alone.

  10. LOL, Susan!

  11. LOL, Susan. That would make a difference. (grin)

    Just to note in many states you can drop babies off like this at Fire Stations or Police Stations. It was an attempt to deal with babies dumped off like this in unsafe situations.

    I’ll make a wild guess though that in any ward there is at least one family trying really hard to have a kid who would consider this an answer for prayers.

    Arguably since the person in question knew people would be at the chapel this wasn’t that reckless. (Although probably having the baby without medical attention was)

  12. MikeInWeHo says:

    At the hospital where I work there are signs posted outside all the main doors designating us as a “safe surrender” location (there’s an outline of a baby being handed over).

    The program is described this way: “In California, the Safely Surrendered Baby Law allows an individual to safely give up an unwanted infant with no fear of arrest or prosecution for abandonment as long as the baby
    has not been abused or neglected. The law does not require that names be given when the baby is surrendered. Parents are permitted to bring a baby within 3 days of birth to any designated hospital staff or designated fire station. The baby will be placed in a pre-adoptive home while the adoption process gets underway.”

    Is there anything similar in Utah?

  13. Tongue in Cheek:

    Hold at bay with a stinky diaper all the families that are convinced that this child is theirs to adopt and prevent the unauthorized plugging of the car seat into the mini van and heading home.

    I think a lot of us would have this feeling….

  14. Back in the Day, the Church had programs to handle things like this through LDS family services. My GrandFather-In-Law is a Doctor and had seven or eight different young women live with his family over a period of years, after becoming pregnant and wanting to put the baby up for adoption. They would live with the family until the birth, and then usually 6 weeks or so after. I’m not sure if anything like that is in place today, but I wish it had been available for this case, in any case.

  15. Texas has the safe surrender rule for fire stations and police stations. I learned this because my Father in Law works in a psyche ward and one spouse coming to visit her husband there had dropped off her kids at the fire station for “baby sitting” on the way to the ward.

  16. jothegrill says:

    I would name him Moses.

  17. Kevin Barney says:

    Illinois has an Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act. An LDS Church would not technically qualify as a safe haven under the Act (I think it has to be a hospital or fire station), but my guess is that in this situation the mother would avoid prosecution for attempting to leave the child in what she considered a safe haven, especially since the child was not in fact harmed.

  18. This happenned at our building one Sunday morning a few months ago, but with a box of kittens. I don’t know what became of them; maybe the bishop killed them.

  19. Mike #14

    I believe this practice is still in place, at least as recently as the late 90’s.

    We jokingly (and insensitively) referred to it as the “Witness Relocation Program”.

  20. I’m a mandated reporter, so I’d have to call Child Protective Services within 24 hours on that basis alone.

    I’m joining with those saying “what makes this a tricky question?” It’s a hard and sad situation, and a bit unusual, but the response isn’t hard to come up with. I’d a damn sight rather have the mother turn in a kid she can’t handle in a setting where it can be gotten to a healthy and safe environment than to try to raise a kid she’s not going to be able to handle. My job is working with kids who didn’t get that gift from an inadequate parent — some were set-up prior to birth to never be able to live a normal life where they could provide for themselves and others. Some folks in the field are happy to support programs that pays women not prepared to safely bring a pregnancy to term to use long-term birth control, and I agree with them.

    We’ve got a handful of window stickers at work (and on the windows right outside the door) telling mothers where they can turn in kids they can’t take care of, and I support that completely. Parenting is not about what the parent wants — it’s about what the kid needs. Parenting is hard. Giving up a child is hard. If it’s what the kid needs, then do it.

  21. First rate, Mansfield.

  22. Utah has a Safe Surrender law very similar to California. The tricky part is that the foyer of a church building isn’t one of the prescribed safe places, so the police had to be called (what else could be done by the ward members who found the baby there?). The police in this case tried to find the mother to be certain she had the care she needed, and to be sure that this was a legitimate “hand over.” After a few days it was decided that although the church building wasn’t one of he prescribed havens, the mother did leave the baby in a place where he would be quickly found and cared for. Since the baby had not been neglected or abused, the investigation has been called off.

    That’s why it was a little tricky — the baby was left in a de facto safe place, but not in a de jure safe place.

  23. any mouse says:

    maybe mike and susan haver more info on this… i swear i heard that los angeles had extended their time period for something like up to fourteen days? which i think is great. the part that i was iffy about was something about mom having, say, 30 days to change her mind. i think safe surrender is a great program that saves lives in more ways than one.

    what’s the background on this? ardis’ comment confused me. i heard about the occurrence and that several of the people in the chapel were applying for adoption of the baby? but nothing further.

  24. This just made me feel terribly sad. Just sad. What is that baby going to think when he grows up? It sticks in some strange way, even though he can’t possibly remember. My heart ached for his mother and for him.

    Of course everyone wishes they could take that baby and love that out of him, or into him, and maybe he will have a wonderful loving home, but the fact remains he is a foundling.

    Ardis, what I’ve heard from the news, what the police are putting out is that the parent did leave the child in a safe place, even though it isn’t specified by law and they won’t prosecute.

  25. The news this morning stated that they are no longer looking for the mother. They were hoping to find her just to make sure she was all right, but enough time has passed that they feel if she needed physical help, she probably already got it, etc. They will not press charges, either, so the search has ended.

    I find it comforting that she would leave the baby in a place where (hopefully!) good people would find him/her. But the hospital would have been a better alternative…

    Poor girl. I hope she’s okay…

  26. Is that the real note? The content combined with what seems to be young-girl writing is heartbreaking.

  27. How did she get into the foyer? Or are ward buildings in Utah always open?

  28. Uh, thanks for keeping all this “confidential”, Steve.

  29. UnicornMom says:

    What confuses me about this situation is that despite the indication that the mother was young (handwriting/grammar) and the baby was self-delivered (large portion of the umbilical cord still attached) the baby was is reportedly good health and placed in a car seat. Where would a young, scared mother have gotten a carseat, good clothes and blanket and then taken care of the baby for five days without the child getting jaundiced or the mother being noticed?

    There is probably much more to this story.

  30. I’m not sure what UnicornMom means by “grammar.” The remarkable thing about the note is that it is free of any grammatical errors. (I’m assuming that there are periods at the ends of the sentences, although I can’t see them in the copy above.) If this note really was written by a young girl (and the handwriting certainly suggests that it was), then maybe the schools in Utah really aren’t that bad.

  31. I would raise the child as my own, hiding him in the custodial closet, while I secretly obsess about tracking down his mother and making her my second wife. As he grows older, he will be entrusted with ringing the bell for Sunday School.

    When Protective Services show up, I expect a dramatic standoff on the meeting house roof – probably involving pelting the cops with chalk and erasers stolen from the library.

    If he’s a good boy, I’ll think about getting some better church art for him to talk to when he’s lonely.

  32. UnicornMom says:

    #30 – I was not referring to grammatical mistakes, but to the uncomplicated grammatical structure.

  33. I thought it was difficult for an abandoned baby to be adopted without the mother signing consent. Can this child be adopted easily? Or will he/she just end up in foster care forever?

  34. Abandonment is a legal basis for termination of parental rights. Once a court terminates the parental rights, the child can be legally adopted. It should take less time and trouble to adopt this baby than one in the child protective system with identified parents.