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Police: Baby's mom sought for medical reasons

October 11, 2002|By MICHAEL A. SALORIO

Staff Writer

The El Centro Police Department conducted a press conference to provide an update on the case of the baby boy abandoned at El Centro Regional Medical Center on Sunday morning.

Present at the Wednesday conference were El Centro police Lt. Tim Blankenship and Andrea Worthington, a registered nurse with the Imperial County Public Health Services child health and disability prevention program.

Blankenship announced that the Police Department isn't looking to prosecute the parent, assumed to be the mother, who abandoned the baby.

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"The department's position is that we're not interested in prosecuting this person. We are concerned for the well-being of the child and mother and would like to see her be provided with medical and social services," said Blankenship.

Worthington explained the mother needs to get medical treatment if she's experiencing complications from the delivery.

"If a woman experiences pain, bleeding, or a fever after giving birth, then she needs to get to the hospital," said Worthington.

Blankenship emphasized that even if the mother thinks she did the right thing, she misunderstood the child abandonment law and put the child at great risk.

"The baby was found by an intensive care unit nurse that had just gotten off duty and was leaving the hospital. He (the baby) was found on the floor by a trailer on the east side of the hospital outside of the emergency room. It was not a safe location to leave a child," said Blankenship.

"When the baby was found, he was dehydrated and the nurses had difficulty in drawing blood," said Blankenship.

He added that the baby was wearing baby clothes and was wrapped in a blanket in which a bottle with formula was tucked.

Both Blankenship and Worthington wanted to clear up misconceptions of the child abandonment law, which, in California is known as SB 1368.

"SB 1368 allows the parent of a newborn infant no older than 72 hours to abandon a baby anonymously to an employee at any hospital emergency room," said Worthington.

"By law, the employee who receives the baby must ask medical history questions and provide identification bracelets to the parent in case she decides to return to reclaim the child, but ultimately the mother is only required to walk into the hospital, hand the baby to an employee and walk out. She doesn't have to answer any questions or give her name. The process is completely anonymous. If the mother refuses a bracelet but later decides she wants her child back, she would have to answer specific questions concerning the abandonment before she is reunited with the child," said Worthington.

Worthington explained that after a baby is abandoned properly, there is a two-week waiting period where the child is not formally entered into the state's child welfare system in order to give the mother time to reconsider her decision. If she decides to reclaim her child, the family is provided with social services.

"Because this baby wasn't properly surrendered, the child will be placed in a foster home through Los Niños (county-run child agency) before being given to an adoptive family," said Worthington.

Blankenship said the baby appears to be of Hispanic descent, but the Police Department is not 100 percent sure of that assessment.

Worthington explained there are many causes for child abandonment.

"Usually these cases involve a teen-age mother who is in a state of denial about her pregnancy. Many pregnant teen-age mothers don't show any signs of pregnancy until late in the third trimester and they manage to hide their pregnancy by wearing baggy clothes," said Worthington.

She also explained that state of denial combined with post-partum depression can lead a mother to abandon her baby.

"Post-partum depression can literally drive a woman crazy because of the fluctuating levels of powerful hormones in her body and now that this mother has abandoned her baby, she's probably even more depressed. I would be depressed if I had abandoned my baby," said Worthington.

The nurse explained the mother would be eligible to receive treatment through county Behavioral Health Services since the police aren't looking to prosecute her.

"When it comes down to it, the baby is safe and we want the mother to get the help she needs," said Blankenship.

Worthington asks expectant mothers who are contemplating abandoning their children to call the Garden of Angels, a non-profit corporation dedicated to the prevention of newborn abandonment, toll-free at (877) 272-3327, where information is available in English and Spanish and all calls are confidential.

On Thursday afternoon, the baby's condition was reported as stable by an El Centro Regional Medical Center spokeswoman.

"He's doing fine and getting better," she said.

Blankenship asks anyone with information concerning the infant's abandonment call Detective Angie Cuevas at 337-4525.

>> Staff Writer Michael A. Salorio can be reached at 337-3441 or michaelsalorio@yahoo.com

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