On a recent Friday afternoon, Tim Jaccard saved another baby — a 5-pound, 13-ounce girl, born to a woman from upstate in her 20s who had been raped and didn’t want to raise the infant.
Two weeks earlier, the woman had called the Bellmore crisis center Jaccard established years ago. Because she was 36 weeks pregnant and close to delivery, the call was transferred to Jaccard, 65, a retired Nassau police ambulance medical technician, who founded AMT Children of Hope to save newborns from being abandoned.
“She said, ‘I cannot parent this child,’ ” Jaccard recalled. “She started crying and I calmed her down.” And he gave her two options: Stay home and have the baby in a nearby hospital using the name “Jane Doe Hope,” or wait until she was 38 weeks along and then come to the safe house next door to Jaccard’s home in Wantagh to deliver the baby.
She chose the safe house, and when she went into labor, a doctor was there to help. Jaccard, who has delivered many babies as an AMT, said the woman signed papers relinquishing the infant and wanted to leave immediately after the birth. When Jaccard was sure she was medically stable, he drove her home. The baby was taken to South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside before Child Protective Services took custody and will be placed with a foster couple who want to adopt.
The newborn is among more than 3,000 infants saved nationwide since Jaccard founded AMT Children of Hope in 1998. All have been adopted. Since he began his mission, the organization has opened crisis center hotlines in Ohio, Massachusetts, Florida, California, Indiana and Bellmore to field calls across the country. Last year, the Bellmore office received more than 2,000 calls.
Children of Hope was started 17 years ago after Jaccard responded to an emergency call in Hempstead where a newborn was found dead, facedown in a toilet. “I was crying in the courthouse,” Jaccard recalled. “It was very emotional to find a child had been lost and murdered.” Within the next few weeks, there were three more infanticides.
At first, Jaccard’s goal was to give a proper burial to each infant in Nassau who had met the same fate. He became their legal guardian and named them before they were buried in a large plot he purchased at the Cemetery of the Holy Rood in Westbury. When emergency workers in nearby jurisdictions — Suffolk, Manhattan and the Bronx, among others — heard about Jaccard’s work, they began calling and asking him to bury the abandoned newborns found dead in their communities.
The burials are a kindness he continues today. For each child, there is a church service and a baptism. “It’s sad, but yes, at the same time in my heart I know that this child is now part of our family and will stay in our family,” Jaccard said. All of the grave markers carry the same last name — Hope. To date, more than 120 infants have been buried at Holy Rood.
In the spring of 1999, Jaccard established a crisis center at Nassau County police headquarters and a year later opened the Long Island Crisis Center and hotline in Bellmore. That same year, Jaccard crafted the first safe haven law that was passed in Texas, allowing a woman to go to a hospital or other designated safe haven and give up her baby anonymously. The following year, the Infant Abandonment Protection Act was enacted by the New York State Legislature, allowing mothers to surrender newborns without prosecution. Jaccard’s persistent lobbying efforts resulted in getting a safe haven law passed in all 50 states.
Over the years, Children of Hope (amtchildrenofhope.com) has broadened its goals, educating students and coaxing hospitals and fire departments to help women who don’t intend to keep their newborns, to have safe births anonymously. The nonprofit organization has fundraising events to help support its work.