STOCKTON, Calif.—A teenager accused of abandoning her newborn baby in a building’s dumpster in Northern California in scorching heat was cited for child abuse and will be released to her parents after she leaves the hospital, police said Wednesday, June 12.
Two people found the boy wrapped in a blanket inside a plastic bag Tuesday afternoon in Stockton, about 50 miles south of Sacramento. Officers later found his 15-year-old mother while canvassing the apartment complex, but it’s unclear if she lives there, Stockton Police Department spokesman Officer Joseph Silva said.
An apartment complex resident heard cries and notified the manager, who pulled the child from the building’s dumpster, Silva said.
The boy, who weighed 6 pounds and 7 ounces and was 20 inches long, still had his umbilical cord and was taken to a hospital, where he was doing well Wednesday, Silva said.
It’s unclear how long the child was in the dumpster, when temperatures in the area reached 102 degrees. The dumpster was under a tree.
A newborn baby in Stockton is alive, incredibly, after being abandoned in a dumpster today. California’s “Safe Surrender” law lets a mom drop off her baby at any fire station or hospital within 72 hours of birth without fear of being prosecuted. @ABC10’s #LateNewsTonight at 11pm. pic.twitter.com/C01G77uAEA
— Becca Habegger (@BeccaReports) June 12, 2019
The police department received several messages via social media asking how the child could be adopted, Silva said.
“We refer those calls to Child Protective Services,” which is caring for the baby boy, Silva said.
Apartment managers told KTXL-TV they spotted the teen mom walking into the complex Tuesday morning and did not recognize her as one of their renters.
No one answered at the unit where she was found. No one living nearby could tell KTXL who lived there.
Detectives are still trying to determine her connection to the building, Silva said.
Silva called the resident and the building manager who found the heroes and said they probably prevented the newborn’s death.
“If they did not spring into action so quickly, this incident could have become a tragedy,” he said.
Resident Troy Cooper told the Stockton Record he was returning home from visiting a friend when he heard what sounded like a kitten and a baby crying at the same time. Something told him to investigate, and it was then that he saw something moving inside the dumpster.
Cooper was unable to get into the dumpster so he called on-site manager John Pedebone.
“I tried to listen, and I saw the bag was moving,” Pedebone said. “My first thought was that it was probably a dog, but when I listened carefully, I could hear the baby.”
Pedebone, who has four children, said that as a father he was left feeling saddened and confused but found comfort in knowing the baby is doing well.
“Hopefully,” he said, “everything will be fine.”
Pedebone didn’t immediately return a message from The Associated Press seeking comment.
Safe Haven Law
California’s Safe Haven Law protects the mother or surrendering person, from criminal prosecution if they surrender the baby to a designated “safe-surrender site” within 72 hours of birth.
The baby and parent, or person with legal physical custody, both receive a confidentially coded ankle bracelet upon arrival. Under the law, the parent or surrendering person has 14 days to reclaim the baby if they change their mind by bringing their coded bracelet back to the site.
After a baby is received, he or she is examined, receives medical treatment if needed, and then placed in a foster or pre-adoptive home.
This policy was developed to prevent newborn babies from being abandoned, which is dangerous, illegal, and often results in the death of the child.
From 1999 to 2018, 3,524 newborns were surrendered using Safe Haven laws, 1,397 newborns were illegally abandoned, 773 newborns were found dead, and 462 newborns were found alive, according to National Safe Haven Alliance.
“You may have heard stories about babies being left in dumpsters, public toilets, or other unsafe locations. The parents abandoning their babies may have been under severe emotional or financial stress. The mothers may have hidden their pregnancies, fearful of what would happen if their families found out. Because they were afraid and felt they had nowhere to turn for help, they abandoned their baby,” according to the California Department of Social Services website.
The Law was first introduced in California in 2001 but formally signed into law in 2006. From January 2001 to December 2017, 931 newborns were surrendered in California and in 2017, 88 newborns were surrendered. A total of 33 babies have been reclaimed since 2001.
NTD News reporter Kimberly Kayek contributed to this report.