Debi Faris, founder of the Garden of Angels, a Yucaipa-based nonprofit, spoke Tuesday at a ceremony for Los Angeles County's Safe Surrender Program.
Faris successfully lobbied for the passage of Safe Surrender legislation statewide, with Senate Bill 1368 taking effect Jan. 1, 2001.
That Safe Haven Law was the inspiration behind the Los Angeles County version of the Safe Surrender Program, approved in 2001.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe, who hosted Tuesday's candle lighting ceremony, pushed for the county version of the program, which allows parents or legal guardians to confidentially hand over an infant 72 hours old or younger to any hospital emergency room, fire station or other designated site, provided that the baby has not been abused or neglected.
Safe Surrender recently reached a milestone.
“In 2001, the Safe Surrender program began in Los Angeles County. Eleven years later, I am so proud that 100 infants have been saved and new families have been created,” said Supervisor Knabe in a news release. “While it is difficult to ‘celebrate’ a baby being given up, when we consider what the alternative could have been, we recognize the courage it took for a mother, who found herself in a desperate situation, to make a better choice for her child.”
Families who have adopted Safe Surrender babies, firefighters, and staff gathered at the evening ceremony at Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles.
Knabe and Los Angeles County Fire Department Chief Daryl Osby urged the adoptive parents and others involved in the program to light a candle in honor of the 100 babies saved. The ceremony closing included the illumination of the Grand Park fountain in blue light as a way to create awareness of the Safe Surrender program.
The supervisor also called for county residents to light a candle at home and post a photo of it on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #100LivesSaved. Residents are also encouraged to follow Safe Surrender on Twitter @SurrenderSafe and on Facebook at Facebook.com/SafeSurrender.
“This year alone, 11 newborns have been given a second chance at life and hope for a bright future because of the Safe Surrender program,” Knabe said. “As word spreads about the program, mothers in desperate situations can make the right choice for their babies because of Safe Surrender.”