Newborn girl is abandoned in hospital restroom

Baby found in blankets under sink with a note at Randallstown facility

May 03, 2002|By Maria Blackburn and Linda Linley | Maria Blackburn and Linda Linley,SUN STAFF

A newborn girl wrapped in blankets and just hours old was found under a bathroom sink in a Randallstown hospital Wednesday night, and Baltimore County police are searching for her missing mother.

The 6-pound, 9.5-ounce black girl, though cold when she was discovered at Northwest Hospital Center, was initially listed in fair condition. Now, doctors say she is in "very good" condition at Sinai Hospital, where she was transferred because Northwest doesn't have a nursery.

The baby was found at 7:45 p.m. Wednesday by a security guard who was making evening rounds on the first floor of Northwest near the entrance, according to a Sinai spokeswoman. The baby, who was nicknamed Rosie by Northwest staff, was discovered in a restroom in an area of the hospital where social workers offer assistance to patients.

A note addressed to hospital staff was attached to the infant, police said. In it, the mother identified herself as homeless and said she was unable to care for her daughter, police said.

Police were unsure yesterday where the baby had been born or whether the mother had received adequate medical care.

The hospital immediately notified police and the Department of Social Services about the discovery of the infant.

"At this point the mother does not face criminal charges," said Cpl. Ron Brooks, a county police spokesman. "Our primary concern is the child and the health of the mother."

`Prognosis is excellent'

The baby was evaluated in Northwest's emergency room before being transferred by ambulance to Sinai, which has a neonatal intensive care unit. Both hospitals are part of the LifeBridge Health system.

"The baby is in very good condition and has been transferred to the full-term nursery," said Dr. Tom O'Brien, director of the neonatal intensive care unit at Sinai. "Her prognosis is excellent."

The full-term baby, described by O'Brien as "a beautiful little girl," was believed to be less than 24 hours old when she was found.

After a closed hearing yesterday, the baby was placed in the care of the Baltimore County Department of Social Services, which will put her in foster care. If her parents are not located, the agency can seek a termination of parental rights, freeing the child to be legally adopted.

Abandoned-baby cases are uncommon in Baltimore County, according to Nick D'Alesandro, community liaison for the county's Department of Social Services.

"It's rare," he said. "From our experiences, we can recall two other incidents of abandoned babies within Baltimore County." D'Alesandro has worked for social services for more than 11 years.

Recent legislation

Legislation passed in Maryland during the recent session of the General Assembly would exempt a person from prosecution if he or she were to leave "an unharmed newborn with a responsible adult within three days after the birth of the newborn." If the bill is signed into law by Gov. Parris N. Glendening, it will go into effect in October.

"The goal is that these infants not be left in trash cans and Dumpsters and places where they are likely not to survive," said Del. Sharon M. Grosfeld, a Montgomery County Democrat who sponsored the bill that was originally introduced during the 2001 session. "But rather to leave the infant in a place where they will ultimately be found and cared for."

More than 30 states have enacted similar legislation.

Yesterday, an assistant state's attorney in Baltimore County said the mother in this case would not be prosecuted even though the law was not yet in effect in Maryland.

"We're exercising our discretion not to prosecute her because she is doing exactly what we are asking people in this situation to do," said John P. Cox, an assistant state's attorney who is chief of the child abuse division.

"This mother lacked judgment, but at least she left her in a public place where she could be readily found," said O'Brien.

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