Safe Haven law provides option for pregnant women who can’t care for newborn

DENVER -- A 16-year old Denver girl is facing murder charges. Alaya Dotson is accused of suffocating and killing her newborn child in the backyard of her Green Valley Ranch home.

Police were called to the home the morning of Sept. 8 by the teen's mom who found her daughter outside with the dead baby.

According to court documents, Dotson told the Denver Police Department she didn’t know she was pregnant and after she gave birth, startled by her mother, she picked up a rock and shoved it down the baby girl's throat, killing her.

Dotson was charged with first-degree murder on Wednesday.

In 2003, John Burke and his wife were foster parents and trying to adopt.

They got a call one Monday morning regarding a 4-day-old baby that had been dropped off at a Westminster fire station by her birth mother under the state’s Safe Haven law.

“We walked in the room and she was laying on her bed sideways with her eyes wide open and the second we saw her we knew we had to have her, this little girl is coming home with us today," Burke said.

"And she looked at us and I think she had the exact same feeling like, not only who is this but hey mom and dad, lets go, you know I’m ready for this."

About Dotson he says, “It breaks our heart. We can’t get this message out enough that there is an option. You know, it's not a life or death, there’s another option out there that these moms that might be in this situation, they can relinquish a baby at a hospital or fire station and to one of the staff members and no questions will be asked as long as that baby is 72 hours old or less and they are safe."

Burke’s daughter, Halle, is now 14 years old and the family is very outspoken about their story.

Halle did an interview for Colorado Safe Haven for Newborns in which she said her parents tell her all the time how brave her birth mother was.

“When I was born, my tummy mommy probably couldn’t take care of me so she took me to the fire station," Halle said in the online video on the organization’s website.

"When one of the firefighters came, she gave me to him. … When my mom and dad tell me my story, they always tell me how brave my tummy mommy was. She made sure that I was safe so that way I can have a family,”

Burke said he wants all women who might find themselves in the same situation as the now-charged teenager -- pregnant and unable to care for a baby -- that there is another option.

Colorado’s Safe Haven law allows mothers to relinquish their newborn to personnel at a fire station or hospital, unharmed, with no questions asked.

Since the law was passed in 2000, 56 children have been relinquished. Burke said that’s what it's for and it only has to save one to be effective.

For the Burkes, their daughter’s birth mother’s decision to do the right thing for herself and for the child she gave birth to makes her their hero.

“Every year, we call it her adoption day, so on Aug. 29 every year is when we officially adopted her. Halle was born Feb. 13. So every year, we just remember her mom, her birth mom and just know that she has a special place in our family,” Burke said.