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Tragedy drives a man to give ‘haven’ for thousands of babies

  • In this Dec. 12, 2016 photo, Tim Jaccard is standing in front of a trailer in Wantagh, new york, that advertises a hotline where mothers can call to make an appointment to be safe away from babies they are not prepared or not able to care for, to a responsible party. The retired ambulance medic lobbied legislators throughout the country to give the so-called “Safe Haven” laws in all 50 states. (AP Photo/Frank Eltman)

    (Associated Press)

  • In this Dec. 8, 2016 photo, Larry and Jennifer Mergentheimer sit at their dining table with their daughter, Rebecca, in Levittown, NY The Mergentheimers adopted Rebecca with the help of the A. M. T. Children of Hope Foundation Baby Safe Haven program. The program encourages the mothers of the children not willing or able to care for their baby to relinquish their children in safe places such as fire houses or police stations, or make arrangements with the organization to the children about birth in a hospital. The organization then works with the social services of the agencies to arrange for the care and eventual adoption of the children. (AP Photo/Frank Eltman)

    (Associated Press)

  • In this Dec. 12, 2016 photo, Tim Jaccard is in the front of snapshots of some of the children are safe to sail under a “Safe Harbor” program he started 17 years ago, in Wantagh, new york The retired ambulance medic lobbied legislators throughout the country to give the so-called “Safe Haven” laws in all 50 states. (AP Photo/Frank Eltman)

    (Associated Press)

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LEVITTOWN, NY – To the untold numbers of children, he is just the Uncle of Tim.

Almost 3,300 babies in the entire country that might otherwise be left in the lurch and perhaps died have found homes in the past 17 years, thanks to the efforts of Tim Jaccard, a retired New York police ambulance medic that he was tired of responding to calls of the dead baby left in trash cans and alleys.

“To hold a newborn baby in your arms and to say that the child is dead, is heart-wrenching,” said the 66-year-old father and grandfather on Long Island. “My feeling was that I was sent on this specific calls to try and see what is going on and to change. I had to stop this madness.”

Not only did he help spearhead a movement in all 50 states to adopt “safe haven” laws that allow mothers in crisis the option of leaving their newborns at police stations, hospitals or firehouses without fear of prosecution, he also founded the national Baby Safe Haven organization that acts as an intermediary for such drop-offs as safe as possible.

Leaving a newborn baby at a fire station door in the freezing cold, for example, can still be dangerous for the baby. Mothers can instead call a national hotline (1-866-510-BABY) and ensure a safe transfer. Some give birth in a hospital and give the child the Baby-Safe Harbor representatives who work with local social services agencies.

Jaccard’s eyes are red when he speaks of the tragic abandonments he dealt with his 37 years as a physician. But there are also the more hopeful cases, documents on a bulletin board with dozens of photos of the children released by Baby Safe Haven.

“What he does is to ensure that mothers are able to move forward with their lives,” said Tracey Johnson, director of the National Safe Haven Alliance in Washington, D. C. “And the children are given the gift of life.”

According to the alliance, 3,298 babies had flipped, with the assistance of the Baby Safe Haven national in 17 years, including 167 so far this year.

The holidays often sees an increase in numbers. In a memorable case from last year, Jaccard said a concerned mother had called the Baby Safe Haven hotline looking for information about New York, the law is only a few minutes before a healthy newborn boy, his umbilical cord still attached, was left in the crib of a Nativity scene in New York City, church.

The reasons for such cases are as varied as the children, Johnson said, dispelling a notion that the mothers and fathers of young teens. Some students are reluctant to tell their parents and can’t raise a child alone. Many women are in the “toxic relationships’ with spouses already abuse of older children in the house and want to shield a new baby that fate.

Larry and Jennifer Mergentheimer, of Levittown on New York’s Long Island, on the other hand, the safe harbor comparison. Their 18-month-old daughter, Rebecca, was adopted after being born and given in a hospital on mother’s day 2015.

They say: “Uncle Tim” regularly checks in with the family.

“It was like winning the lottery,” said Larry Mergentheimer, a 44-year-old nurse manager who lives in Levittown. “You can’t ask to finish anything more than putting a child in a home. It is amazing.”

His wife, Jennifer, a 41-year-old radiologic technologist, says the precocious toddler who loves Mickey and Minnie Mouse are ready with their family.

“We wanted to have a baby and a family for so many years and it was a struggle. Just to have her in our life, it is the greatest thing in the world,” she said.

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Follow Eltman on Twitter at @feltman41.

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