Thursday, June 07, 2001

N. Ky. to help save unwanted infants

Hospital program to begin in July

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WILDER — A program designed to prevent the abandonment of newborns in Northern Kentucky should be in place by the middle of July.

        State officials, prosecutors, social workers and hospital representatives met Wednesday to wrap up some of the details.

        “We're working on a strong communication plan, and we're planning a very public launch of the program around mid-July,” said Nancy Strassel, vice president of the Greater Cincinnati Health Council.

        The United Way will help publicize the program, mainly through printed materials sent to its thousands of donors across Northern Kentucky, said Gwen Pate, director of United Way's Northern Kentucky office.

        The materials will include a phone number that expectant or new mothers can call for information and counseling, Ms. Pate said.

        Kenton County Attorney Garry Edmondson said the program is valuable “because it lets the community know that there are options and resources available for people in this situation.”

        Prosecutors from Boone and Campbell counties are also participating.

        The program, patterned after one in Hamilton County, is designed to prevent parents, particularly teens, from abandoning and possibly injuring or killing newborns.

        Parents could anonymously turn over newborns to hospitals within 72 hours of their birth and not be prosecuted for abandonment. St. Luke and St. Elizabeth — which operate hospitals in Covington, Fort Thomas, Edgewood and Florence — have agreed to participate.

        The hospitals would care for the babies while social workers find foster homes. Ultimately, the babies would be adopted.

        Legislation introduced earlier this year in the Kentucky General Assembly would have created a law requiring the program. But after the bill failed to be called for a vote, House Majority Leader Jim Callahan started working to begin the program in Northern Kentucky.

        Mr. Callahan said he plans to introduce legislation in the 2002 General Assembly session to require the program statewide.

        Officials said the abandonment of newborns does not appear to be a major problem in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

        Under Hamilton County's program, which will be a year old in August, only one child has been turned over to authorities.

        “But if we save just one child,” Mr. Callahan said, “I'll know we've been successful.”


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