In 1996, while Debi Faris had one eye on dinner and the other on the evening news, she heard a story that would change her life. She stood frozen as she listened to the reporters account of the tragedy a newborn baby boy had been stuffed into a duffel bag and tossed from a speeding car along a freeway. She couldn’t move, she just kept thinking about this child and wondering how we could have become a society that just throws their babies away as if they were a piece of trash.
Debi contacted the authorities and with the blessing of my family, asked the Coroner’s office to release the baby to her family for burial. While waiting for the investigation to end on this child, she learned that there was another newborn baby boy that had been found in a dumpster, and a little girl about two years of age, who was found washed up on a beach.
On August 26,1996, her family had their first burial service for the three children. They were given the names of Matthew, Nathan and Dora. Each name means the same; a Gift of God.
In the beginning, this was an act of love from her family. However, as the word of what they were doing for these little ones spread, they knew that it was not enough for these children to touch just our hearts they were being shown that God wanted their tiny footprints to touch the hearts of many more. Garden of Angels came into existence.
She knew the answer was to educate and help young mothers and their children before it was too late.
Safe Surrender for Newborns is created
Debi began the Safe Surrender for Newborns program when she contacted Sen. Jim Brulte and asked him to write legislation that would decriminalize ‘safe’ abandonment. Safe Surrender for Newborns (SB 1368) was created to honor all babies who have lost their lives to newborn abandonment. The Garden of Angels works passionately to prevent the tragedy of newborn abandonment through our educational and outreach programs.
California law SB 1368 allows the parent of a newborn infant – within 3 days – to legally surrender their baby, anonymously and without fear of prosecution to any employee at any hospital emergency room or other designated fire station in California.
In addition, SB 1368 allows for a two-week “cooling off” period, allowing the parent the opportunity to reconsider the decision, and work to reclaim their child. Since this law took effect January 1st, 2001, more than 300 babies have been safely surrendered.
The Garden of Angels and our Safe Surrender for Newborns program is committed to the prevention of newborn abandonment.
We have launched an educational campaign which includes public service announcements and print ads, plus a fifteen minute educational video designed to reach out to our young people in our schools, as they discuss health, life issues and teen pregnancy in their classroom.
We feel that it is through educating the students of today that this tragedy will turn around, and it is up to us as parents, teachers, counselors and religious leaders to open the lines of communication with them. To share the story of the children in the Garden with our teenagers, and to reaffirm with them that no matter what the circumstances in their lives – that together we can work through it.