June 9, 2005

Honorable Members, Public Safety Committee
California State Assembly
1020 N Street, Room 111
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Committee Members:

I am writing in opposition to legislation you are currently scheduled to consider, SB 116, permanently legalizing anonymous infant abandonment in California. Whatever your initial thoughts or instincts about this statute, I ask you to please keep an open mind by factoring in the research on this issue – and the sometimes-negative impact such laws are having elsewhere. Please forgive the generic nature of this letter, and its lateness, but I only learned yesterday that you were planning to take up the legislation.

For your background, I am the executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a national nonprofit and the pre-eminent research, education and policy organization in its field. Our mission is to improve the lives of everyone touched by adoption, especially children. Because we are nonpartisan and independent of any interest group or constituency, our work is regularly utilized by policymakers, researchers, journalists and professionals. I also am the author of “Adoption Nation,” a book that is highly regarded in the field and deals with this specific issue.

The Institute has conducted a groundbreaking study of safe haven laws, which raises serious concerns about their effectiveness and effects. The study (available at http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/old/whowe/Last%20report.pdf) and attached here, concluded that there is no evidence “safe haven” statutes are working as their proponents maintain – principally because they do not address the causes of the problem. In addition to that counter-intuitive conclusion, our research indicated these laws cause negative, unintended consequences; these include encouraging girls and women to conceal pregnancies and give birth alone in unsafe settings (causing a risk to their own lives and those of their children) and then to abandon their infants, undermining adoption through established legal procedures.

I strongly urge you to read our research and consider its findings; I wish the evidence had shown something different, but we have to publish the facts that we find. FYI, similar conclusions have been reached by child-welfare advocates across the political spectrum, as well as by nonpartisan organizations such as the Child Welfare League of America. I also ask that, rather than acting now, you hold hearings to get further information from birth mothers who abandoned their babies; adult adoptees who were abandoned; and researchers who have studied the complex issues involved. I would be happy to speak to you as well in whatever forum you wish, including with written or in-person testimony.

Please feel free to forward this letter, along with our study, to fellow legislators. In addition, please contact me directly at 617-332-8944 or apertman@adoptioninstitute.org if you have any questions or would like to discuss this further. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Adam Pertman
Executive Director

Cc: Steve Meinrath, Committee Counsel

bottom logo of children

New York: 212-925-4089 Adam Pertman, Executive Director Boston: 617-332-8944