NC Safe Surrender Law

North Carolina is one of 45 states with a Safe Surrender law.

The law, passed in 2001, is designed to prevent the senseless deaths of defenseless infants.

Below is information about the law from, a website created by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. You can also find a link at the bottom of the page.


Because the risk of homicide on the first day of life is 10 times greater than at any other time of life, a desperate woman may abandon her child in a panic, not thinking that the baby may die, that she may be found out and tried criminally, and that she will regret this hasty act for the rest of her life.

The law is designed to help that woman make the best choice for her baby, to allow it to live. She could literally walk up to a stranger, hand the baby over, and walk away.

The law itself can be found on the General Assembly's website.

How big is the problem?
In North Carolina, an average of two infants are killed or left unprotected to die every year. (With few exceptions, the people responsible are later identified.)

It’s sad to think that a woman could kill her baby or abandon it unsafely, but pretending it doesn’t happen is irresponsible. So far, 45 states across the country have passed Safe Haven or Safe Surrender laws in an attempt to save lives.

Is safe surrender the solution to the complex forces that lead a woman to be in such a position? Of course not. Is it better than having no such law? If it saves a baby’s life, absolutely.

Can mothers or fathers of babies change their minds about adoption?
In North Carolina, either parent has seven days to change his or her mind. However, until there is a legal termination of parental rights, which can take months, the parent has the right to contest a pending adoption.

What is the history of infanticide?
In ancient cultures, killing newborns was often encouraged by laws, social conditions or religious beliefs, such as sacrificing infants to appease gods.

In the 1300s, “foundling hospitals” accepted unwanted babies, but they often died there from poor care.

In the 1600s, England made it illegal to kill infants, and put many women to death if they were found guilty of doing so.

In the late 18th century, laws were adopted to be more compassionate to a mother who resorted to infanticide.

In some societies today, infanticide is an accepted practice (although not officially legal). In China, for instance, babies are often killed because they are girls.

What happens to women who kill their babies or abandon them to die?
In North Carolina, the legal outcomes for women who killed their newborns have ranged from no charges filed to 25 years in prison.

What about the rights of fathers?
There is a natural concern that a woman may have a baby and surrender it without the father knowing it exists. Any man who hears of a surrendered infant and believes it may be his should come forward.

Before a child can be adopted in North Carolina, some effort must be made to find the father to request permission or allow the father to take the child. This takes the form of a legal notice in the newspaper.

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