Stephanie & Ben Weiler - St. Joseph Patient Story - Ascension Wisconsin

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Providing a ‘Safe Haven’

Having already been through the ups and downs of traditional adoption, Stephanie and Ben Weiler were more than open when their caseworker asked if they’d be interested in pursuing a “low legal risk” adoption.

Eight days later they were holding two-day-old James Benjamin, one of 24 infants relinquished under Wisconsin’s Safe Haven Law in 2008, and one of 12 infants relinquished at Wheaton Franciscan – St. Joseph Campus in Milwaukee that year.

James’ birth mother was a young woman in crisis who likely had kept her pregnancy hidden from family and friends and didn’t know what to do. But one thing was certain. She wanted her baby to be healthy and happy.

Thanks to the Safe Haven Law, which was enacted in Wisconsin in 2001, she had an option. She took her newborn to St. Joseph and placed him in the arms of a loving health care worker.

St. Joseph became the state headquarters for Safe Place for Newborns in January 2010. St. Joseph was a natural partner for the program, said Tricia Burkett, a social worker with Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare and the new state director of the Safe Place for Newborns program. "Not only do we have more babies at our hospital than anywhere else, 25 percent of all safe haven babies are brought to St. Joseph," she said.

For the Weilers, knowing the program is headquartered at St. Joseph – a hospital known for babies – was comforting. "It gives more legitimacy to the program," Stephanie said. "My mom was born here, and my sister was born here. I’m grateful James was born here."

Today, James Benjamin is a “happy toddler who loves to dance, swing at the park, and play hide-and-seek. He has a smile that can light up a room,” said Stephanie.

Learn more about Safe Place for Newborns.

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