Safe Surrender (Surrender Newborns Safely)

North Carolina’s Safe Surrender Law allows a parent to surrender a newborn up to 30 days old to a designated safe person* without the parent providing his or her name. Safe Surrender is legal and aims to prevent newborns from being hurt or abandoned.

Why is the Safe Surrender Law Necessary?

The law, passed in 2001 and amended in 2023, is intended to prevent newborn abandonment and harm. The law provides parents in crisis, or who feel they have no other choice, a way to surrender their baby safely, legally and anonymously.

How to Safely Surrender Your Newborn

Do your best to make sure that the baby is healthy, warm and clean. Then find a designated safe person* who will assist you with the surrender of your baby.

*Your options for a legal Safe Surrender / Designated Safe Persons are:

  • A health care provider, as defined under G.S 90-21.11, who is on duty or at a hospital or at a local or district health department or at a nonprofit community health center.
  • A first responder, including a law enforcement officer, a certified emergency medical services worker, or a firefighter.
  • A social services worker who is on duty or at a local department of social services.

If you receive an infant, call your local Department of Social Services immediately for assistance.

A medical assessment of the baby will be conducted as soon as possible to estimate their age and health status. For it to be considered a legal safe surrender, there can be no concerns for abuse or neglect.

Do Not Leave the Baby Somewhere and Hope that Someone Will Find the Baby

Many states have Safe Haven laws. These designate places where a baby may be surrendered. North Carolina's law is different because it designates specific people, not places. Safe Surrender is not abandoning a baby on a doorstep. You must hand the baby over to a designated safe person.*

It would be helpful to your baby and the adopting family if you make some health and family history information available when you surrender the baby, even if you don’t give your name. A surrendering parent can provide the information to the  designated safe person accepting the baby, or the information can be sent confidentially to the local county Department of Social Services.

NCDSS Safe Surrender Health and Information Form

Do Non-Surrendering Parents Have the Right to Reclaim a Surrendered Newborn?

Any parent who hears of a surrendered baby and believes it may be theirs should come forward. Before a child can be adopted in North Carolina, an effort must be made to find the non-surrendering parent to request permission or allow the non-surrendering parent to take the child.

Do Surrendering Parents Have the Right to Reclaim a Surrendered Newborn?

A surrendering parent has the right to contact the county department of social services where the baby was surrendered and request the baby's return to his or her custody prior to the filing of a termination of parental rights petition. Social Services are required by law to treat a parent's request for the baby to be returned as a report of neglect and complete an assessment.

If You or the Newborn Needs Medical Attention, Get it Right Away

Having a baby without any medical help can lead to serious complications for you or the baby. It's better to seek help than to risk serious health consequences.

If you have any of the following symptoms, seek medical care:

  • Vaginal bleeding that doesn't slow down when you rest
  • A bad smell to vaginal blood
  • A fever of 101 or above
  • Pain in the abdomen or vaginal area
  • Severe headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • A feeling of burning when you urinate

Other Options

Arranging for the adoption of your child to a safe and loving home through your local Department of Social Services or a licensed adoption agency is another option, and if you choose, your identity can be kept confidential.

Adoption is when a child is legally moved from one family to another. All legal rights of the birth parents are transferred to the adoptive parents and the child is raised as their child.

If you are pregnant and unable, unwilling or unsure about parenting, you can make an adoption plan for the child before or after they are born by reaching out to an adoption agency or your local county Department of Social Services. Reaching out for information is not a commitment to placing your baby in adoption.

Making an adoption plan for your child can be very flexible. You can choose not to be involved in the decision-making process, or you can be involved in picking the adoptive parents and potentially maintain some level of contact with the child once they are born. Making an adoption plan also means you can receive counseling and support about your decision to place your child for adoption.

If you make an adoption plan for your baby, it is not a safe surrender. You will sign over or relinquish your parental rights to the child. If you are under the age of 18, you can make an adoption plan for your child, and sign the legal documents to place your child for adoption without your parent or caregiver’s approval.

To make an adoption plan for your baby, contact a licensed adoption agency or your local Department of Social Services.

If you are pregnant, you may be eligible for Medicaid, a type of insurance that can provide comprehensive health care to you from the beginning of pregnancy and for a period of time following birth. Babies born to Medicaid-eligible women continue to be eligible for health care until their first birthday. You also may be eligible for other types of financial assistance.

More Information

For more information about the Safe Surrender Law or if you are pregnant or parenting a newborn and would like to learn about help and services available for someone who may feel unable to care for a newborn, please contact your local Department of Social Services.

If there is an emergency, please call 911.

Information for Women in Crisis
What the Law Says about Safe Surrender
Safe Surrender Parent Brochure
NCDSS Safe Surrender Health and Information Form