Putting together an awareness campaign can be very simple or quite daunting. Prevent Child Abuse Gaston started working on the Safe Surrender Awareness campaign in 2005 at the request of Judy Chaffin, the Child and Family Services Administrator at the Department of Social Services. Dottie Scher, DSS, and Belinda Bogle, Extension Office, attended a state training on the law and brought that information back to Gaston County. Then Kathy Kenzig, Alliance for Children and Youth, formed a task force to develop a county protocol in regards to Safe Surrender. That Task Force included the Honorable District Court Judge Angela Hoyle; Lloyd Moskowitz, Gaston Emergency Services; Kathy Kenzig, Alliance for Children and Youth; Dottie Scher, DSS; Belinda Bogle, Extension Office; Jody Cook, Gaston Memorial Hospital; and Rob Helton, Gastonia Police Department Youth Bureau. In 2006, the County Commissioners granted just over $4,000.00 to cover the cost of printing 40,000 copies of the Safe Surrender flyer, the Protocol, a medical/ethnicity survey in English and Spanish to give to parents at the time of surrender and a letter from the Interagency Child Abuse Council (Prevent Child Abuse Gaston) describing the contents and purpose of a packet containing all information. Over the next ten years these packets were distributed throughout the county to County government offices, pediatricians’ offices, hospitals, urgent care centers, fire departments, mental health and child serving agencies across the county. Prevent Child Abuse Gaston provided short training sessions for police departments and social workers about the law and its purpose.
In 2014, another 150 packets were put together and distributed. And now in 2016, the rest of the materials are being assembled by Prevent Child Abuse Gaston and the Caromont Healthcare Volunteens to be distributed by volunteers to churches across the county. The law is still in effect and the Protocol is still the same.
Also, this year, Prevent Child Abuse Gaston is planning to host a training session for social workers, police officers, emergency services workers, doctors, nurses, anyone who might be involved in a safe surrender situation at Caromont Healthcare Center about the law, as a refresher on what the law is, what it does and doesn’t do, and what is recommended if someone tries to surrender a child older than 7 days. That session will be announced in the near future.
This is a heartbreaking, sometimes deadly situation when someone decides they can no longer provide for a baby and decides to leave it somewhere unattended. This law is needed, although rarely used, for those cases when someone is desperate enough to leave their infant alone in an unsafe location. Safe Surrender is the first of Prevent Child Abuse Gaston’s Safe Seven.