Safe Haven organization honors Medina FD, Batavia hospital

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 June 2013 at 12:00 am

Groups were ‘flawless’ in accepting surrendered baby

Photos by Tom Rivers – Timothy Jaccard, president and director of the AMT Children of Hope Foundation, presents “Torch of Life Awards” to Denise Polovick, a registered nurse at United Memorial Medical Center …

… and Mark Schoell, the CEO of the hospital in Batavia.

BATAVIA – The Medina Fire Department and United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia were both honored with “Torch of Life” awards today for their work in accepting a surrendered baby last month through the state’s Safe Haven Law.

A newborn baby girl was dropped off at the Fire Department on May 25. Firefighter Dennis Pollock was working when a woman, “Kathy Hope,” showed up with the baby after being directed to the fire hall from the Safe Haven crisis hotline. She surrendered the newborn who was then taken by the Fire Department to UMMC in Batavia.

The Safe Haven Law allows mothers to surrender babies, up to 30 days old, without charges of abandonment. The law has saved nearly 3,000 babies, said Tim Jaccard, president and director of the AMT Children of Hope Foundation – Baby Safe Haven.

He drove from Long Island on Tuesday to be in Batavia and Medina today to present awards to hospital and Fire Department staff.

Pollock and Medina Fire Chief Todd Zinkievich both received “Torch of Life” awards. Jaccard praised the Fire Department for its awareness of the law and the firefighters’ sensitivity to the situation.

Firefighters transported the baby to UMMC in Batavia. The baby is healthy and currently in foster care. Jaccard presented “Torch of Life” awards to Denise Polovick, a registered nurse, and Mark Schoell, the hospital CEO.

“She was flawless,” Jaccard said about Polovick and her handling of the situation.

The hospital deserves credit for preparing its staff for a baby surrendered through the Safe Haven Law, Jaccard said.

Jaccard worked as the medical officer in the 1980s for the Nassau County Police when he responded to calls of babies not breathing. Some of those calls were for babies who had been drowned in bath tubs, left in plastic bags, and sometimes discarded in dumpsters or buried in back yards.

Before the law took effect in 2001, Jaccard said 29 babies were killed the previous year in New York by mothers who feared they couldn’t care for their baby.

Last year, three newborns in New York were killed by mothers who were in unwanted pregnancies, said Jaccard, who is the state Safe Haven coordinator.

“This gives a birth mother in a crisis situation an alternative to relinquish a baby in a safe manner,” he said.

Jaccard said there have been 2,878 “Safe Haven” babies in the U.S. since the law was passed, with the most recent one born Tuesday in Florida.

His organization also distributes Safe Haven signs and logos for hospitals, fire houses and ambulances, to let pregnant women know about the Safe Haven option.

Jaccard said many firefighters and hospitals still aren’t trained in how to respond to a surrendered baby. That’s not the case with the Medina Fire Department and UMMC.

“The way they responded, it went so smoothly,” Jaccard said. “I felt they should be honored.”