NEW ORLEANS -- UNO men's basketball coach Mark Slessinger and his wife Toni may soon realize their dream of becoming adoptive parents under the rarely utilized Safe Haven Law of Louisiana that protects the health and welfare of abandoned children.
On Tuesday, the Slessingers opened their arms, hearts and home to a newborn infant girl who now joins a unique family that includes two other foster care children from the state's Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).
This is the latest chapter in a compelling, fast developing story that is drawing national attention.
"We got the call Monday morning at 9:30, and by Tuesday afternoon we had a three-day-old healthy, full-term, beautiful, sweet little girl,'' Slessinger told sportsNOLA.com Wednesday night.
"We are literally blown away. This is crazy. It's like we're brand new parents all over again. We couldn't be happier. It's just incredible. We've tried to do what's right and a little good karma came back our way. It's God's plan.''
We will reference the newest addition to the Slessinger family as Baby N for privacy reasons. Mark and Toni do not know, nor will they come to know, specific details of how Baby N unexpectedly arrived at a designated emergency care facility in Louisiana. Under Louisiana law, those facilities include any licensed hospital, public health unit, EMS provider, medical clinic, fire or police station, pregnancy crisis center or child advocacy center.
Under the Louisiana Safe Haven law, a parent may anonymously surrender a baby up to 31-days-old in the care of one of the aforementioned designated care facilities without facing criminal prosecution. The baby must be placed in the arms of an emergency care facility employee and show no signs of abuse or neglect.
In the case of Baby N, soon after her birth she was surrendered to a designated emergency care facility. That facility notified the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) which obtained legal custody of the child and freed her for adoption. Within days, the DCFS awarded Baby N to the Slessingers.
If the biological mother and/or father decide not to reclaim parental rights of Baby N within 30 days, then the Slessingers can begin the adoption process.
"We just happened to be next on the list with Department of Children and Family Services,'' Slessinger said. "This is like a dream come true for us because this is so different than our other two foster care children.''
The Slessingers already are caring for two foster children through the DCFS; Baby J, a 17-month-old girl, and Baby H, a 14-month-old boy. Baby J has been with the Slessingers since July 5 and will be returned to her biological parents June 25. Baby H joined the Slessingers on April 18.
There are fewer than 25 Safe Haven cases on record in Louisiana since the law was enacted in 2000. It is believed the Safe Haven law in Louisiana was last utilized in May 2011 in Baton Rouge.
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