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‘Safe Surrender’ Families Join To Mark Program’s 10th Anniversary

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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Ten years after L.A. County created the Safe Surrender program, which allows parents to leave unwanted newborns at designated sites, families gathered to celebrate the program’s success.

“I kiss her and love on her and tell her how much I love her every day and how much I appreciate the opportunity to raise her and be her mom,” said Jill Bardwell, who two years ago got a special call at work.

“I walked into my bosses office and said, ‘apparently I am in labor, because I’m taking home a baby in four hours and I’m going home,’” she said.

The baby’s mother had delivered her hours earlier at the hospital. She had walked in off the street homeless and starving.

“I can’t thank the mom enough for giving her up and doing the right thing,” Bardwell said.

Adrianna Bardwell is one of 87 children turned into hospitals and fire stations in the last decade in L.A. County, as part of the Safe Surrender program.

Babies 3 days or younger can be surrendered at designated sites without their mothers facing criminal charges.

Madyson Doherty, now 10, was one of the first babies in the county’s program, turned in September 20, 2001. Since then she has lived with her adopted parents, Michelle and Darren, who she describes as, “really loving and caring.”

In 2001, the program’s first year, 14 children were abandoned, 11 of whom died. Over the past decade the number of children abandoned has decreased and the number of safely-surrendered children has increased.

“It’s pretty overwhelming in the sense that you know that each of these children are this close to either being in a trash can or Ocean,” said L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe, who developed and championed the ordinance based on a state-wide program.

Knabe hosted a luncheon Wednesday for Safe-Surrender families to celebrate the program’s 10-year anniversary. Also present were some of the firefighters, who received the infants.

Captain Jay Davenport was there 10 years ago when Madyson’s birth mom called 911 from a parking lot.

“She’s just a beautiful, thriving young girl with a great family,” he said.

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