When 8-year-old Alexander Valle heard the cries, he stopped in his tracks.
The muffled sounds coming from a nearby garbage can on Aug. 7 prompted the boy and his parents, Claudia Hernandez and Victorino Valle, to call the police. When police arrived at the Brighton Park address, they found a two-week-old boy lying in a trash can that was filling with rain water.
This morning at St. Anthony Hospital, Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Dawn Geras, founder of Save the Abandoned Babies Foundation, presented the Valle family, including 5-year-old daughter Mayra, with an award for heroism for saving the boy's life.
Madigan praised Alexander for telling his parents about the cries coming from the alley near their home.
“He has set a fine example at a very young age of doing the right thing,” she said.
The baby, named Baby Anthony Thomas after the paramedic who brought him to St. Anthony Hospital, survived and is in the custody of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
“We always see this on TV or in the newspaper, but we couldn’t believe this was happening,” said Victorino Valle, as Alexander cradled the award.
Madigan stressed the importance of the Illinois Safe Haven Law, which allows unwanted newborns to be dropped at select locations within a week of birth. In 2010, the law will allow parents to abandon a child within 30 days of birth.
Babies can be left at hospitals, fire stations and police stations, and there is no risk of prosecution if the child is unharmed.
“We know it is a very difficult decision to make, but we don’t want a child to come to harm,” she said. “There are many families that are more than happy and anxiously awaiting the opportunity to adopt a child.”
Since the Safe Haven Law was passed in 2001, 53 babies have been dropped at haven locations. However, 57 have been abandoned illegally and nearly 30 of those have died.
Geras said more education about the law is needed. While the law is supposed to be part of health education curricula, not all schools include it in coursework, she said.
Another problem is that many of the young, scared mothers who abandon their newborns never see a gynecologist during pregnancy, hindering doctors’ ability to discuss the mother’s options.
“Typically these mothers aren’t getting prenatal care because they’re trying to hide their pregnancy,” she said.
Geras said she is concerned that not all police or fire stations display the required logos denoting them as safe haven locations.
Daily News Staff Writer Alex Parker covers public health. He can be reached at 773.362.5002, ext. 17, or alex [at] chitowndailynews [dot] org.