A mother who said she could no longer care for her infant handed the baby over to fire officials in the Baton Rouge area Tuesday, utilizing a program that allows parents to legally relinquish custody of their newborns with no questions asked, a state child welfare official said.

“This mother made a very difficult decision today, and I commend her for it,” Marketa Garner Walters, secretary of the state Department of Children and Family Services, said in a news release.

“Instead of abandoning her baby, she placed the child in the arms of someone who will ensure his safety. This underscores the importance of Louisiana’s Safe Haven law. It saves lives,” she said.

Under the Safe Haven law, which was passed in 2000 in response to a series of infant abandonment stories across the country, newborns up to the age of 60 days may be relinquished to employees at designated emergency care facilities without facing legal consequences, according to a department news release.

The emergency facilities include hospitals, public health units, EMS stations, medical clinics, fire and police stations, pregnancy crisis centers and child advocacy centers.

The baby handed over on Tuesday was examined at Woman’s Hospital in Baton Rouge and was determined to be in good health. The child will be placed in foster care and is expected to be adopted eventually, according to the release.

Since 2004, 44 infants in Louisiana have been relinquished under the Safe Haven law, including a baby in the Covington area in October.

In cases where babies are in no immediate danger, officials encourage parents who can no longer take care of their newborns to use a planned, permanent adoption agency, which will record the child’s medical and genetic information.

But the Safe Haven program is a safe alternative, requiring only that parents drop a newborn off at an approved emergency care center and state that they wish to use the Safe Haven law. The babies must show no signs of abuse or neglect to be part of the program. Parents are encouraged to provide information such as their name, age, reason for relinquishing and genetic information but are not required to do so, department spokeswoman Grace Weber said.

Parents who relinquish babies using the program are provided a number, (800) 244-5373, to receive information about parental rights and provide anonymous information about the infant’s medical and genetic history, if they wish, the release says.

For more information about the program, call (800) 244-5373 or visit louisianasafehaven.com.