Myrtle Beach area and state officials said the case of a newborn baby being found abandoned in a dumpster last month should never have to happen thanks to a state law that allows babies to be left at safe havens like a police department, fire station, hospital or church.
The person leaving the unharmed child, who is less than 30 days old, is granted immunity from prosecution for the act of leaving the infant with someone at a safe haven, according to the South Carolina Safe Haven for Abandon Babies Act.
“There will be no arrests if they can just get the babies there; anywhere a child is safe,” 15th Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said. “It doesn’t come up often and it never should come up. There are thousands of people here in Horry and Georgetown more than willing to adopt a child. I don’t understand.”
In Horry and Georgetown counties, two babies have been left under the act often called Daniel’s Law, said Katheleen Goetzman, public information coordinator for the S.C. Department of Social Services
There have been 25 incidents where babies were surrendered under the law throughout the state since the law was enacted in 2000, Goetzman said.
On April 9, Horry County authorities were called after a newborn baby girl was found in a trash bin in the 500 block of Fairway Village Drive by two teens who were taking trash to the bin.
Police charged Shelby Harper Taylor, 23, with attempted murder and she is free on $10,000 bail pending adjudication. Taylor, the abandoned baby’s mother, surrendered to police after she recognized pictures of herself being circulated by Horry County police, Lt. Raul Denis said.
The baby girl appeared to be “freshly born” and was still covered in blood and afterbirth, according to a police report.
Another case of an infant being abandoned in Horry County was Baby Boy Horry who was found dead in a bag on Dec. 4, 2008 along S.C. 544. The investigation continues into that case.
Horry County Coroner Robert Edge previously said an autopsy showed Baby Boy Horry would have been a viable child had he received basic medical care most infants get after birth.
Police in North Myrtle Beach, Myrtle Beach, Surfside Beach and Conway each said they have not had any babies surrendered in their jurisdictions. It was unclear where the one baby in Horry in 2008 and the baby in Georgetown County in 2005 were each surrendered.
“That’s a great law though,” Conway police Lt. Selena Small said.
Under the law, the person leaving the infant doesn’t have to leave information about the child, but someone may ask medical information, needs or treatment, officials said. The child is then placed with DSS and they will maintain custody for 30 to 60 days until a Family Court hearing is scheduled.
During that hearing, a judge will decide to terminate the parents’ rights and the child can be placed for adoption. If the parents or relatives want custody of the child, they must attend the hearing.
“Daniel’s law is an important prevention measure,” said Bett Farrell Williams, interim communications director for the Children’s Trust of South Carolina. “If a mother or a father is at a point where they cannot handle it anymore they need to be able to get kids to a safe place and that’s what we want is for children to be safe at all times.”
Often there are other circumstances or mental illnesses that prevent parents from being able to care for an infant, Williams said.
“It’s important that families realize there is something they can do to keep that baby safe. You get that child out of a situation that may be dangerous. That is always our first concern,” Williams said. “There’s a lot that goes on with a mom emotionally and that’s a tough time. You want young parents to know they have an option and you want that option to be readily available.”
A bill is in the state legislature that requires signs to be posted as safe havens so area residents will be able to easily identify a place that can help in such instances, Williams said.
“Daniel’s law is really an important safety net,” she said.
Contact TONYA ROOT at 444-1723 or on Twitter @tonyaroot.