Written by Terri Rizzi and Christy Hinko Friday, 28 January 2011 00:00On July 16, 1997, after being called to the scene at Nassau’s First District Courthouse in Hempstead, Nassau County Police Paramedic Tim Jaccard found the body of ‘Baby Angelica’ dead in the toilet of the first stall. These paramedic calls are named ‘baby not breathing’ calls and after finding two more dead babies shortly thereafter, Jaccard knew he needed to do something about it.
Jaccard, a 37-year veteran with the police department and resident of Wantagh, started researching how many infanticides – the homicide of an infant - were received monthly and learned that within a month, in just three cities – New York, NY, Mobile, AL and Houston, TX - 41 babies were found dead.
In 1997, a woman in the United States could not legally leave a baby at a hospital, with the intention of not returning, without being charged with child abandonment, neglect or child abuse. If convicted, she would serve a term of four years in prison.
In 1998, Jaccard founded the nonprofit Ambulance Medical Technician (AMT) Children of Hope Foundation/Baby Safe Haven. Its mission is to prevent these unnecessary deaths and burials of unwanted children. The foundation started as a need to pay for the burials of the babies found dead, but today’s mission is to rescue babies before they are abandoned and die.
After the death of ‘Baby Moses,’ Texas became the first state to pass the law stating that a woman could give up her baby without question and without being prosecuted. This law is known as the Abandoned Infant Protection Act and is also known as the “Baby Moses” or “Safe Haven Law” and now spans 50 states, since 2008. Jaccard is known as the “Father of Safe Haven.”
“Spreading the word is the only way for people to know about the Safe Haven Law and Children of Hope Foundation,” said Caren Sue Peet, a volunteer for the past nine years at Children of Hope. Peet is a certified social worker.
According to Peet, the best way to accomplish this is through networking. Whether it be on Facebook, through seminars or even word of mouth, the more women in crisis who know they have a safe place to turn, the less likely babies will be found dead.
“The last thing we want to find is a dead newborn in a dumpster,” said Peet.
Sometimes, a mother does not have time to get to a hospital. The Crisis Center can explain to the mother how to deliver the baby unassisted and how to get to the closest, local hospital.
There are many hospitals nationwide that are part of the Safe Haven Program, and also provide care and delivery at a cost of $2,500, for supplies and the cost of delivery and stays for the mother. A typical delivery at a hospital today costs between $15,000 and $20,000. Doctors and laboratory technicians who participate in the Safe Haven Program donate their time and services for free.
To educate people, Jaccard has done multiple speaking engagements including speaking to more than 12,000 students in 2010. He goes to high schools and teaches about date rape and acquaintance rape and how to protect oneself in instances like when being out on a blind date. This leads into Jaccard’s passion of Safe Havens for those people who become pregnant with unwanted babies.
South Farmingdale Fire Commissioner Thomas Mastakouris, a good friend of Jaccard’s, said, “Tim is one of the good guys that we need more of; it’s hard to believe that one man started this all.”
Assemblyman Joseph Saladino and other elected officials joined the members of the South Farmingdale Fire Department at their annual open house on Sunday, Oct. 3 for an official unveiling of their commitment to the Safe Haven program, displaying the identification sign on their firehouse. The station is available as a Safe Haven for Babies site.
In February 2010, Nassau County was the first in the nation to implement a new program identifying ambulances as official “baby safe haven” drop-off sites.
The Ambulance Signage Program provides signs on ambulances that indicate it is a part of the Safe Haven Program. A pregnant woman can legally walk up to any Safe Haven location and simply hand her baby over without questions. She does not have to leave her name or any other information, although it is encouraged so that information such as ethnicity and medical history can be documented for future use.
Public service announcements have also been given from celebrities such as Samantha Cole and Jaccard has appeared on shows like Riki Lake’s, Montel Williams’, and Rosie O’Donnell’s.
Nationally, in the months of October and November, six babies were safely relinquished. Jaccard told Anton Newspapers that on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, three babies were brought to safety. All hospitals, police stations, emergency medical stations and fire departments are Safe Haven locations where mothers can bring their unwanted babies.
From the start of the foundation, which was to provide a burial for unwanted babies who died, the Children of Hope Foundation has morphed into a way for babies to be saved from death and either placed in a new loving home, or the birth mothers being educated on how to care for these babies themselves. Tim Jaccard is the man who started it all.
Instead of abandoning their babies to uncertain outcomes, mothers are assured that there is a safe place and that their babies will be adopted and placed in loving homes. Education is the key in changing the minds of these mothers who feel they have nowhere else to turn. A crisis hotline (877-796-HOPE) is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and all calls are kept confidential.