TUSTIN, CA —Safe Surrender signs grace the entrances to fire stations across California, but how much courage, faith and love does it take to surrender a child? One year ago, a mother with a new baby in arms, arrived at the Tustin Orange County Fire Station 21 to discuss options that would alter the course of her son’s life and the lives of his adoptive parents, forever.
On Dec. 19, 2017, OCFA medic Linda Brown opened the station doors and helped the young woman fully understand what it means to surrender your child to be adopted safely.
Within 72 hours of birth, a parent can release their baby to a fire station or other location bearing the Safe Surrender emblem, without repercussion per California law. Brown and the crew present helped process the release, then carefully took the child by ambulance to a nearby hospital and began his journey to finding a forever home.
Brown always wondered about that baby. What became of him? Nearly one year later, she held baby Noah Salazar with a smile on her face at a reunion in his honor.
After his surrender, there was much the fire department did not know. Often, firefighters never learn what happens next after they help others through traumatic situations.
Noah was around 6 pounds and likely born prematurely. He needed care in the NICU, according to father, Tim Salazar.
One year ago, Tim and Javier Salazar were waiting for the call to care for an infant.
Tim Salazar told Patch they had been through the classes, home studies and knew that just having a child placed with them didn’t mean it would end in adoption.
“We were hopeful about the foster process but knew a child could be returned to their biological parents,” he said. They received the call about the infant who was safely surrendered and went to meet the baby. “Thirty seconds after we saw him, we knew he was ours, he was our Noah,” Tim Salazar told Patch.
The fathers spent their Christmas and New Year’s with little Noah in the hospital, both consistently with him as he improved until he grew strong enough to go home.
Today, Noah is a bright and happy boy.
“He’s a super good sleeper, and so social,” Tim Salazar said, laughing. “I asked the Fire Station if they wanted to have a reunion and help share the message about Safe Surrender. It’s such an important program and can save children’s lives.”
Together with OCFA and Social services and Noah’s adoptive parents enjoyed that happy reunion at the end of Adoption Awareness Month.
Parents Javier and Tim Salazar thanked all of the fire crew at Station 21, a well as hospital workers and social services caseworkers who aided in the ultimate finalization of Noah’s adoption in mid-October.
“I want (Noah’s birth family) to know they did the right thing,” Javier Salazar said to media present. “I want them to know that he is safe, he is happy, and they don’t have to worry if they made the right decision or not.”
According to Tim Salazar, “Safe Surrender is always the best solution, and we hope that Noah’s birth family feels any burden has been lifted. He is truly loved.”
Since 2002, the Orange County fire department has helped 80 safely surrendered babies. Seventy-three of those children have been adopted, or are in process of being adopted, according to Denise Churchill of Orange County’s Department of Children and Family Services. Seven more returned to their parents after two weeks of relinquishing rights through the program.
In California, over 770 children have been safely surrendered since 2001, according to the California Department of Social Services.
The Safe Surrender law allows parents or guardians of newborns under 72-hours old to remain anonymous, and release custody to local social services. The program, designed to keep babies from being abandoned in unsafe conditions, is safeguarded by California law.
For more information, visit: www.OC4Kids.com