They Were Left to Die, But This Woman Makes Sure Abandoned Babies Get Proper Funerals

State   Sarah Zagorski   Feb 11, 2015   |   4:00PM    Indianapolis, IN

A woman from Indianapolis was horrified when she found out that babies were being buried without funeral ceremonies, without names and in unmarked graves so she decided to do something about it. Linda Znachko first became involved with caring for deceased infants when she heard about a dead baby known only as “Baby Doe” that was left in a dumpster, wearing only a diaper.

She said, “I was appalled, that in the 21st century, in our country and in this city, that still happens.” However, according to the Indy Star, one thought overpowered her: A dumpster is not a grave. A diaper is not burial clothing. Doe is not a name.

That thought is what gave her the idea to start her organization, He Knows My Name, which helps with funeral arrangements for abandoned babies and helps parents who can’t afford funeral expenses. In fact, Znachko sometimes “adopts” a child that has died recently, takes responsibility for the child’s remains and receives death certificates for the baby to her mailbox.

Recently, Znachko organized and facilitated a double funeral for two children — a newborn baby that was abandoned in the woods and a 1-year-old child who died in the care of a guardian while her mother was in prison. Remarkably, the funeral drew nearly 100 attendees and every aspect of the service was donated, including the funeral chapel, cemetery plot, funeral gowns, caskets, flowers and embalming.

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Znachko said that the essence of her ministry is to flip the story around and say, ‘Yes there is a tragedy. Yes, it was hard. But let’s remember the life and the name of the child.’

Linda’s husband, Steve Znachko, commented on his wife’s compassion and said, “She has a heart for the tragedy behind a mother that would dump a child. There’s never been any judgment. There’s only been sorrow. She feels so drawn to the tragedy of the community and the tragedy of the parents. Of saying what must it have been like for a mom and a dad to dump a baby.” Linda added that she always reminds herself that she doesn’t know everything about the women who abandon their babies and knows they are going through more than she can imagine.

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Now Znachko is working to expand Indiana’s safe haven law, which allows parents to hand over an unharmed infant, up to 72 hours old, to an employee at any fire station or hospital, with absolutely no questions asked. The problem is sometimes women are too ashamed to hand over their baby to an actual person but Znachko believes there could be a solution.

She thinks the solution would be to create a system of drop boxes, much like the Drop Box Pastor Jong-rak Lee created in South Korea. The mothers would place their babies anonymously; and the boxes would be wired with an alarm that would alert emergency agencies within 30 seconds that a child has been turned over. Ultimately, Znachko believes that countless babies could be saved from death if their mothers felt they had a safe place to leave their children without anyone seeing their faces.