|Safe Haven: Turning Tragedy into Joy for Ten Years|
|Wednesday, April 13, 2011 09:15 AM|
By Nancy Kennedy
“He, who saves one life, saves the world entire.”
That sentence, paraphrased from the Talmud, beautifully expresses the value of every single human life.Although it was written centuries ago, it is a perfect description of the philosophy that drives Safe Haven, an award-winning, trailblazing non-profit Florida organization that is dedicated to rescuing newborn infants who are tragically abandoned by their mothers. Over the ten years of Safe Haven’s existence, the program has grown substantially, expanding in concept and now offering a range of services and programs to prevent newborn abandonment.
Safe Haven was created in 2001 by Nick Silverio, a man whose deep compassion and love for all children led him to devote his life to saving abandoned infants. He created the organization to honor the life of his beloved wife Gloria, who was killed in a car accident in 1999. Nick and Gloria were married for 32 years, and although they had no children, they were devoted to children and served as godparents to fourteen.
In just ten years, Safe Haven has gained national attention and become a prototype, setting the standard for affiliated programs in Kansas and Missouri. It has launched a network of chapters across Florida and attracted a team of over 300 dedicated, hardworking volunteers. The organization has provided web-based training for 4,000 professionals in healthcare and emergency services and has enlightened the public about the issue of newborn abandonment through public service announcements, billboards, community presentations and social media Internet sites. “People are aware of Safe Haven now,” says Executive Director Silverio. “They’ve heard of us, they know what we do and most importantly, they know that there’s a number to call for help.”
That number is a more than a helpline – it’s a lifeline, for a woman with a crisis pregnancy and nowhere else to turn for support. Safe Haven provides a multilingual, confidential, statewide, toll-free number, 24/7 – (877) 767-2229. Assistance is immediately available to callers.
“When someone calls our helpline, we get them help right away, in their own community,” says Silverio. “Most of them are terrified and all alone; they’ve had no medical care, and their families don’t know about the pregnancy. Often, once they get some help and support, they decide to keep the baby. We aren’t trying to solve the social issues that contribute to this problem. That’s beyond our capacity.
“We simply help women who need help in a desperate way, always without passing judgment. We focus on the child. We offer counseling for the mother, but we don’t push. Our approach is gentle and respectful.”
Safe Haven has also become a model of effective private-public partnership. “We are a private, grass-roots organization that has taken the lead with the public sector in order to make our world a kinder place to live,” Silverio explains. “We have forged wonderful partnerships with numerous organizations and agencies, including the Department of Health and the Early Childhood Initiative Foundation. Our concept is to work with everybody.”
When a mother, in a state of panic or despair, abandons a newborn, she has the option, through Safe Haven, of taking the baby to a hospital or to one of the thousands of fire stations throughout Florida that now have a specially designed “Safe Haven” sign on the exterior of the building. The sign consists of the Safe Haven logo and helpline number. The fire station personnel are trained to manage the baby’s emergency care and transfer the baby to the closest hospital. The hospital cares for the baby and places him/her for adoption through a licensed agency. The mother can do this anonymously and with protection from prosecution, for a period of seven days after the birth.
Safe Haven rescues infants that might otherwise be left to die in a garbage dumpster or trashcan. It provides their desperate, troubled mothers with the assurance that the baby will be cared for and placed in a loving home. But, reaching women and girls before they reach a crisis point is a key part of Safe Haven’s mission. Counseling, parenting classes, prenatal care and information about adoption are provided, and the organization has a new program to teach middle and high school students about the Safe Haven option.
It has been a productive ten years for the once-tiny organization. Through partnerships, public awareness campaigns, professional trainings and statewide expansion, Safe Haven has grown and flourished. But all of these achievements, significant though they are, pale in comparison to Safe Haven’s primary one: saving the lives of 156 newborn infants.
According to Silverio, “We are overwhelmed and overjoyed when a precious life is saved; conversely, we are heartbroken when a newborn is abandoned. Without the Safe Haven services and helpline, many, if not most, of the babies saved would not be here today. They are growing up in loving adoptive homes, developing in every way and reaching for the world. Who knows, maybe one among them will become president of the U.S., a Supreme Court justice or a scientist who finds the cure for cancer. Or, more importantly, maybe they will become great moms and dads to their own children.”
“We have always believed, from the beginning, that if we only saved one life, all our efforts would truly be worthwhile.”
If you’d like to support Safe Haven:
- volunteer and make a difference
- make a donation
- become a sponsor of a project, activity or program
- donate in-kind services from your field of expertise
Visit www.asafehavenfornewborns.com and learn more.
Happy Birthday Safe Haven
“I have supported this organization since its inception and have seen it grow from an idea into such a worthy cause of saving lives. Thanks to Safe Haven, 156 precious little lives have been saved, 46 in South Florida alone. Now they all have a future. Safe Haven is truly making a difference.”
State Senator Rene Garcia
“I have such admiration for Nick Silverio. He took the tragedy of his wife’s death and turned it into a living, breathing memorial. Safe Haven is a beautiful legacy for his wife, Gloria.”
Dave Lawrence, president, Early Childhood Initiative Foundation
“What a blessing Safe Haven is! It’s an organization that everyone should know about and support. Safe Haven changed my life and my family’s life. Thanks to Safe Haven, we were able to adopt our son Kristopher, a rescued baby, and now he is a smart, funny, articulate 7 year old. There are so many women in need, and Safe Haven offers them open arms, no questions asked. It saves them from a lifetime of grief. I truly admire Nick Silverio, a man of great heart and integrity. Nick speaks for children who have no voice; he is like a godfather to all the rescued babies. One day, they will all know that they are alive because of him.”
Aja Terrell, Safe Haven volunteerTo reach the helpline, call (877) 767 – 2229. For all other questions, or to speak to Nick Silverio, call Safe Haven at (305) 882-1304.