Garland County Teen Pleads Not Guilty After Arrest for Abandoning Baby

LITTLE ROCK, AR – A Garland County teen accused of leaving her newborn baby on a neighbor’s doorstep pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to a charge of endangering the welfare of a minor.

Fabiola Torres-Onate, 18, was arrested in March after a Garland County Sheriff’s authorities determined she was the mother of a baby boy left on the front porch at a mobile home park.

According to investigators’ reports Torres-Onate initially denied being the mother, but then later claimed she was scared and did not know what to do after keeping the pregnancy and birth a secret from her family.

Torres-Onate does not speak English well, and gave the court her plea with the help of a court employee who spoke Spanish. After the hearing, family members who do speak English declined to speak to us on camera about the allegations.

The case comes just two months after the full launch of the Department of Human Services “Safe Haven Campaign” to promote the Safe Haven law options in Arkansas. According to spokesperson Amy Webb, funding for educational resources hadn’t existed prior to late last year. State Senator Cecile Bledsoe provided General Improvement Funds of $100,000 to create a campaign to spread the word about the 2001 law.

“That was one of the criticisms when the law initially passed was that there was no funding attached to let people know about the Safe Haven law,” Webb said.

The Safe Haven law allows someone to bring a baby in, who is under 30 days old, to a law enforcement office or hospital and give the baby to officers or employees with no questions asked.

“You can do it anonymously,” Webb said. “Walk in, find someone and tell them this is a safe haven baby. We ask they be brought to those locations so we can be sure the children aren’t left on doorsteps or unattended in case they need medical attention or other help.”

The campaign includes a website that explains the law, stickers for law enforcement offices and hospitals to place on their windows, and educational materials for parents who feel like they’re out of options.

“That’s the big worry is that if someone feels like they don’t have an option and feel that they have to secretly to get rid of a baby or abandon a baby, they may do it in an unsafe way,” Webb said. “They may leave the baby outside when it’s really cold or really hot or in a location where no one might find it or hear it, causing serious injury or even death.”

Brochures and information packets have been delivered to county Department of Health units, local libraries across Arkansas and law enforcement agencies. One area that may still be needed to help individuals who struggle to speak English like Torres-Onate are resources in Spanish.

“Are Spanish materials in existence right now, or are they going to be?” we asked Webb.

“We’ve talked about that. We had to get the initial start up and get the bulk of materials in English,” Webb said. “We’ve done some translation, and I don’t know that they’re fully out there yet.  But we do have on our list to do some Spanish-speaking advertisements related to the campaign and some of the Spanish publications.”

According to Webb, it is a priority because they want to reach anyone who might be impacted or facing a tough situation where a child is involved.

“That’s something we all want to do we want to make sure we reach everyone who might be touched by a particular law or impacted,” she said.”That’s really hard to do to reach everyone, but we do try to get information as broadly and widely as we can so that the most people can see it. The bottom line is, we want to make sure these babies are safe.”

The baby boy left on the doorstep in the Garland County mobile home park was unharmed and is currently in the care of a foster family. Torres-Onate’s next criminal court date is slated for July.

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