If you find an abandoned baby in Idaho, can you keep him or her?

In short, no. Unlike material objects you happen upon, you can't call "dibs" on an unwanted infant you find in the Gem State. Your heart might be in the right place, but you could be accused of or convicted of abduction if someone were to report you.

In the off-chance you discover an abandoned bundle of joy in Idaho, there are legal procedures you have to abide by to safeguard their health and welfare.

What is the Idaho Safe Haven Law?

The Idaho Safe Haven Act was passed in 2001 to prevent infant abandonment.

Also known as Idaho's Baby Moses Law, Section 39-8203, Emergency Custody of Abandoned Children of the Idaho State Legislature, obligates citizens to immediately notify peace officers upon the discovery an abandoned baby.

(1) A safe haven shall take temporary physical custody of a child, without court order, if the child is personally delivered to a safe haven, provided that:

(a) The child is no more than thirty (30) days of age;

(b) The custodial parent delivers the child to the safe haven; and

(c) The custodial parent does not express an intent to return for the child.


What if I'm unable to keep my own baby? 

If you're unable to keep your up to one-month-old baby, you have legal options in the Gem State. One option is for mothers to safely and anonymously deliver their baby to a Safe Haven Baby Box found at most fire stations or hospitals.

Safe Haven Baby Boxes mission is to prevent illegal abandonment of newborns by raising awareness, offering a 24-hour hotline for mothers in crisis and offering the Safe Haven Baby Boxes as a last resort option for women who want to maintain complete anonymity. The Safe Haven Baby Box takes the face-to-face interaction out of the surrender and protects the mother from being seen.

-Safe Haven Baby Boxes

Additional safe havens identified under the Baby Moses Law include hospitals, emergency medical specialists, physician assistants and nurse practitioners. While your anonymity can't be guaranteed, you can rest assured that you won't be judged for legally and safely surrendering your child.

If you're in crisis, you're not alone.

If you're unable to care for your baby, call the Safe Haven Baby Boxes crisis line at 1-866-99BABY1, or find a Safe Haven Baby Box near you here.

How often are American babies abandoned?

According to the National Safe Haven Alliance, a 501-3c nonprofit, 31 American babies were illegally discarded in dumpsters and discovered in backpacks or other inhumane locations in 2021. Of the 31 recovered, 22 of them were found deceased.

Most of us couldn't imagine abandoning our infant, but it happens more often than we realize for several reasons.

For many, the shame associated with abandoning an infant prevents struggling mothers and families from reaching out to authorities. Because of this, it's impossible to know how many have been left for dead. As of Nov. 2022, less than 35 babies have been legally surrendered in Idaho since 2001 despite statewide efforts.

If you want to know more about adopting an Idaho child, you can call the IdahoCareLine at 211 or 800-926-2588, or visit the Idaho Dept. of Health & Welfare website.

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