Polk County child welfare professionals teamed up to ensure one local infant, born with medical complications that threatened her life, would fine a forever home. The newborn, delivered at Florida Hospital Heartland Medical Center in Highlands County, came to the attention of child protection officials after her mother relinquished custody through the Safe Haven Baby Law.
Traditionally, babies considered Safe Haven Babies are quickly adopted to potential parents already screened and awaiting a new addition to their family through private agencies. They do no enter foster care. Safe Haven Laws allow mothers unable to care for their infants to leave newborns with a designated professional to reduce the risk of abandonment in an unsafe environment. As long as the newborn is seven days of age or younger and found in the care of hospital, fire station or EMS location, there are no questions asked of the parent, no repercussions, and the infant is placed with a loving family.
But with such a life-threatening diagnosis, private adoption agencies in this case were concerned they would not be able to find a new mom or dad in time, which is how the newborn came to the attention of child protection.
Employees from DCF and Heartland for Children, the Community Based Care organization overseeing foster and adoptive services in Polk County, were touched by the newborn’s story, refusing to accept that the tiny baby may pass without ever being part of a family.
Heartland for Children’s staff reached out to Nick Silverio, founder of Safe Haven for Newborns, a not-for-profit agency that promotes awareness about the Safe Haven Law in Florida. Mr. Silverio linked the team with Gift of Life, a private adoption agency in Pinellas County. Gift of Life staff immediately accepted the infant as well as support through the legal process. An amazing local couple with years of experience with children with special needs, came forward. The baby was named Maiya. She was also given the gift of family prior to her death on August 28.
Baby Maiya’s story is a reminder that there is a home for all children available for adoption. It also serves as an example of the great lengths child protection officials go to help a child find the greatest gift of all – a family.