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Administrative (Non-Clinical) Policy
UWHC only (Hospital Administrative-entity wide) UWMF only (entity wide)
UWHC Departmental (indicate name) UWMF Departmental (indicate name)
UWHC and UWMF (shared)
Policy Title: Safe Place for Newborns
Policy Number: 8.01
Effective Date: August 1, 2015
Chapter: Patient Care
It is the policy of UWHC to comply with the Safe Place for Newborns law.
Safe Place for Newborns (age 72 hours or younger)
Background: Wisconsin law permits a parent to leave some newborn babies in the custody of a hospital
staff member who reasonably believes the baby to be 72 hours old or younger.
UWHC and other hospitals in Dane County are cooperating with the District Attorney and Dane County
Department of Human Services in implementing this law by accepting some babies that are brought to the
hospital by the parent.
Babies are eligible for this program only when the baby is reasonably believed to be no older than 72
hours. Hospital staff members are not authorized to accept custody of older children under this program.
If an attempt is made to leave an older child, the social worker on call or patient relations should be
contacted to determine the appropriate steps outside of this policy [Generally, if the child needs
emergency medical screening or services, the ED should be contacted; appropriate steps may be taken to
identify the parent if a baby is older than 72 hours].
A baby is not eligible for the Safe Place for Newborns program if the parent who leaves the child
expresses intent to return for the child. Hospital staff members are not authorized to accept custody of
children under this program when intent to return is expressed.
If medical assessment determines that there is intentional injury or abuse of the baby, then the
confidentiality provisions of the Safe Place for Newborns law do not apply. The baby can remain in
custody of the hospital staff member under the law. The child protection policy shall then be followed.
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A. Any UWHC staff member may accept custody of a newborn baby who is brought by a parent to
the main hospital building when the staff member reasonably believes the baby to be 72 hours old
or younger and the parent does not express intent to return for the child. Neither the law nor
hospital policy requires any individual staff member to assume this duty. If the employee is
uncomfortable determining the age of the baby or accepting custody of the baby, the employee
may contact the UWHC emergency department to accept the baby.
Hospital staff members may not accept custody at locations other than the UWHC hospital on
Highland Avenue (which includes American Family Children’s Hospital). At other locations, the
parent may call 911 or hospital staff may assist the parent in calling 911. 911 will dispatch an
authorized person to accept custody.
1. UWHC staff members should not directly notify the police. Sometimes the police
dispatcher covers answering 911 calls; staff may notify whoever answers the 911 call
even if it is the police.
2. Do not ask the person presenting the child for name or identification beyond confirming
that the person is a parent of the child.
3. A staff member who accepts custody is required by law to make available to the parent
the state's maternal and child health toll-free telephone number (1-800-722-2295). If the
parent does not want the number, the law forbids any steps to induce or coerce the parent
to accept the number.
B. The law prohibits any effort to detain the parent or persons accompanying the parent or to follow,
pursue, identify, or locate them, unless there is reasonable cause to suspect that (a) the child has
been the victim of abuse or neglect or (b) the person assisting the parent has coerced the parent
into relinquishing custody of the child.
C. If there is reasonable cause to suspect that (a) the child has been the victim of abuse or neglect or
(b) the person assisting the parent has coerced the parent into relinquishing custody of the child,
staff may but are not required to initiate steps to follow, pursue, identify, or locate the parent or
other persons accompanying the parent.
D. If custody of the baby is accepted and the baby is not in the emergency department, call the ED
(262-2398) or nursing coordinator (262-2122) for assistance in transporting the baby to the ED.
E. In the ED or, if the parent does not go to the ED, at the location where the parent relinquishes
custody, the parent and any person assisting the parent with the relinquishment should be
informed that they may remain anonymous unless it is reasonably believed that the newborn has
been abused or neglected or the parent is being coerced or induced to relinquish the newborn. If
the parent chooses to provide identifying information or be identified as a parent of the newborn,
make a reasonable effort to obtain all of the following:
1. Information regarding the social and health history of each parent of the newborn, and of
the families of each parent as prescribed by the department.
2. Information on the ethnicity and race of the newborn, including whether the newborn is
of American Indian heritage and, if so, any tribal affiliation.
3. The name, address, telephone number, and any other identifying information of each
parent, and any person assisting a parent in the relinquishment.
F. In the ED or, if the parent does not go to the ED, at the location where the parent relinquishes
custody, offer the parent who relinquishes a newborn and any person present with a parent during
the relinquishment the state publications PFS-4073A , PFS-4073, and CFS-2316. The ED has
these documents. If the parent or a person present with the parent refuses the information offered,
document the refusal. Document all other non-identifying information observed or obtained
during the relinquishment.
G. Emergency Department. Medical assessment of the baby starts in the emergency department.
1. Do not notify the police.
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2. The ED physician assesses the baby's condition.
3. The ED RN completes a nursing assessment, including blood glucose levels.
4. Triage the baby to General Pediatrics to assume medical responsibility after the initial
assessment is completed by the ED physician. Arrange for transfer to inpatient pediatrics.
5. Contact the nursing coordinator.
6. Contact the ED social worker or the On-Call Social Worker.
H. Nursing Coordinator
1. Notifies the Administrator On-Call and Public Affairs.
I. Social Worker
1. Reports to the ED and collects available information regarding the baby.
2. Obtains condition report from the ED RN and confirms Safe Place eligibility.
3. If Safe Place eligibility, notifies Dane County Child protective services.
4. If not eligible for Safe Place program, follows child protection policy.
5. If the questionnaire is returned, the Social Worker forwards it to Health Information
Services for scanning into the baby's medical record.
J. General Pediatrics
1. Admits baby to inpatient pediatric until as appropriate for continued care.
2. Confirms that Social Work contact has been established.
3. Releases baby only to Dane County Human Services Child Protection worker with valid
identification. Any other discharge arrangement should be reviewed and approved by the
UWHC Legal Department.
1. Registers baby by name, if known, or uses Doe.
2. Follows confidential patient process to restrict access to information.
1. The law places the responsibility for placement of the abandoned baby on the Child
Protective Services (CPS) of Dane County Human Services Department.
2. CPS will coordinate all activities with UWHC (including AFCH) Social Work staff and
should arrange for immediate foster placement for the baby upon discharge from the
3. The baby is discharged only to a Dane County Human Services Child Protection worker
with valid identification. Any other discharge arrangement should be reviewed and
approved by the UWHC Legal Department.
Safe Place for Newborns law, section 48.195, Wisconsin statutes
Sr. Management Sponsor: Sr. VP & General Counsel
Author: Legal Department
Approval Committee: Administrative Policy & Procedure Committee
President, University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Chief of Clinical Operations
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Previous revision: 082012
Next revision: 082018