Archives of the Mayor's Press Office

Date: Thursday, May 24, 2001
Release # 168 - 01

Contact: Sunny Mindel/Matthew Higgins
212-788-2958 View Mayor's
Press Conference


City Taskforce Works to Coordinate Agency Policies on
Infant Abandonment and to Educate New Yorkers About Law

Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani today joined public officials to raise awareness of a State law that is designed to protect abandoned newborns. Signed into law last July by Governor George Pataki, the Abandoned Infant Protection Act created an affirmative defense to criminal prosecution for any individual who abandons a newborn child, unharmed, and in a safe place. After the bill was enacted, the Mayor established a subcommittee of the Mayor's Child Abuse Task Force to coordinate infant protection policies and public outreach among the numerous City agencies that have an interest in this issue, including the five District Attorneys.

The Mayor was joined by State Senator Nancy Larraine Hoffmann, a leader in addressing the problem of infant abandonment and the author of the Abandoned Infant Protection Act. Also joining the Mayor were Administration for Children's Services (ACS) Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta, Criminal Justice Coordinator Steven Fishner, Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen, Department of Youth and Community Development Commissioner Jerry Cammarata, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes, Bronx District Attorney Robert T. Johnson and Greater New York Hospital Association President Kenneth Raske.

"The overriding priority in addressing the issue of infant abandonment is to protect the safety of the child," the Mayor said. "As a result of this law, a person who makes the decision to give up their child has an affirmative defense, so long as the infant is delivered safely to an appropriate place. This is a sensible law that reduces the likelihood that fear of criminal prosecution would drive an individual to endanger their baby through abandonment -- or worse. Numerous City agencies are now working hard to ensure that all New Yorkers are made aware of this important law. "

Hoffmann, a nine-term Republican Senator, explained why she wrote the law in such a specific manner. "I have been working on this issue for more than 20 years and I can say this is the most progressive law in the nation. We are saying to women that New York has a no-questions asked policy about their pregnancy, as long as their infant is left at any safe place within five days of birth," Hoffmann said.

ACS Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta said, "We hope this new State law will save the lives of many newborns who are abandoned every year. It provides troubled parents with a safe way to give up their newborns without causing them harm. ACS is working cooperatively with several other City agencies and other groups to ensure that people are aware of the new legislation and that the safe abandonment system works quickly and effectively on a Citywide basis."

The Act created an affirmative defense to the crimes of abandonment of a child and endangering the welfare of a child when a person: 1) leaves a child not more than five days old with an appropriate person or in a suitable location, making the child safe from physical injury; and, 2) notifies an appropriate person of the child's location.

The Mayor's Child Abuse Task Force, which has been operated from the Criminal Justice Coordinator's Office for more than twenty years, brings together law enforcement, child protective services, hospitals, educational institutions, and non-profit groups citywide around issues related to child abuse. The Task Force has been instrumental in developing protocols to encourage cooperation among member agencies to ease the trauma faced by child victims while their cases are investigated or presented in Court and to ensure that evidence in the cases presented is as strong as possible.

In the context of the Abandoned Infant Protection Act, members of the Task Force subcommittee are disseminating the protocols developed by each of the agencies around this legislation, developing additional public information materials, coordinating the dissemination of publicity concerning the law, and working with members to train appropriate staff. A training seminar for hospital staff, including emergency room, pediatric, adolescent medicine and security personnel, is planned for June 22 at the Greater New York Hospital Association.