Mother asks to reclaim baby

She left him at a fire station Sunday. She returned Tuesday.

Published May 16, 2007

TAMPA - She cared for him during his first three days of his life, but decided she couldn't keep him.

On Mother's Day she diapered him, swaddled him and delivered him to firefighters at a Hillsborough County Fire Station.

But a woman claiming to be the baby's mother appeared at the station Tuesday morning and said she wanted her child back, said Hillsborough Fire Rescue spokesman Ray Yeakley.

Florida's Safe Haven Law allows anyone to drop off a baby up to 3 days old at fire stations and hospitals without giving their name.

It also allows the mother 30 days to reconsider.

Firefighters at the 1404 E 131st Ave. station told the woman she would have to go to University Community Hospital to reclaim her baby, but she had not contacted the hospital Tuesday evening, said hospital spokeswoman Phoebe Ochman.

"The only people who can identify her are the people that took the baby from her, " Yeakley said.

This marks only the second time an infant was surrendered in Hillsborough County since the Safe Haven Law's inception seven years ago, and only the third time in Florida that a mother has asked for her baby back, said Nick Silverio, head of the adoption-advocacy group A Safe Haven for Newborns.

The fire crew that accepted the baby will have to verify the woman's identity, since she did not leave her name.

When she goes to the hospital, authorities will verify her physical and mental capability to care for the child.

"A doctor or social worker certainly is not going to release a child back to somebody who is not capable, " Silverio said. "That's just basic common sense."

But he said authorities will work with her to help her with motherhood.

"The mother needed help. Safe Haven was there to help her, and she'll be able to get the child back, " he said.

Michael A. Mohammed can be reached at mmohammed@sptimes.com or 813 226-3404.