GALENA -- No one has come forward to claim the baby girl left on the steps of a rural Catholic rectory over the weekend, but she has captured the hearts of people here and elsewhere.
The infant, left neatly swaddled in a blanket and tucked into a U.S. Postal Service first-class mail crate, has prompted offers of adoption, foster care, clothing, money and help of all kinds, said the Rev. Thomas J. Peterman, who found the child on his rectory steps before dawn Sunday. The baby is thought to be 2 to 4 weeks old.
"In 38 years of being a priest, I've had lots of people on my doorstep -- drunks, derelicts, mothers with no money -- but never anything like Sunday," Father Peterman said yesterday. The soft-spoken, scholarly pastor of St. Dennis church continues to receive calls from people as far away as Washington, who are interested in adopting the child,.
State police, who are investigating the case, said yesterday they have widened the investigation beyond Maryland. The church and rectory where the baby was left are on Route 213, a major road that links the Upper Eastern Shore with Delaware and southeastern Pennsylvania.
"We're following all leads," Detective Sgt. Mike Snyder said. "No lead is too trivial for us. If somebody thinks they have something, we want to hear it. We're trying to encourage the public to call."
Father Peterman and the state police investigators said they are hoping the baby can be reunited with her mother. For now, however, the child has moved behind the formidable curtain of Maryland's child-care bureaucracy.
"She's in one of our homes -- she's doing well," said Gary Dolde, assistant director of the Kent County Department of Social Services. "Things are working out for her. To say where she is and when she goes [to a permanent home] -- all that would disappear into Department of Social Services records and the court seals them, and that's that."
Mr. Dolde said confidentiality rules forbid him to say anything else about the child, even whether she has been given a name. The state police refer to her as "Baby Jane Doe"; the pediatric nurses at Kent & Queen Anne's Hospital, where she spent Sunday, Monday and part of yesterday before going into social services custody, unofficially christened her Elizabeth Adele St. Dennis.
"I believe one part was the name of a nurse's daughter, another part was someone's middle name," and St. Dennis was chosen for the church, said Robin Klinefelter, the hospital's vice president of public relations.
Clothes, offers of financial assistance or adoption, and calls expressing concern have poured into the hospital. "When she left here yesterday, she was wearing a real pretty pink dress and a white bonnet that she had been given," Ms. Klinefelter said.
That dress and bonnet came from a mother three towns and 24 miles away, near Church Hill.
Mi'Mitti Sharp, who has a 3-month old daughter and a 7-year-old son, first heard of the abandoned baby Sunday.
"They're just clothes that she'd outgrown," Mrs. Sharp said yesterday, nodding toward the baby seat where little Emily May was asleep. She watched the news after she got home from shopping, she said, and there was a picture of the little girl.
"I just fell in love with her," she said. "I told my husband, Brian, 'Can you imagine that baby, with no one to love it?' "
So she went to the hospital with some gifts for the baby and left them, although she wasn't allowed to see the recipient.
"I made sure they gave her a bag I made up special," Mrs. Sharp said. It had a blanket, a teddy bear, a musical dog and some clothes. And, like the nurses, she gave a name of her own to the little girl whose mother couldn't keep her: "Catherine, because it means pure."
Like the state police, the priest who found her and the hospital and social workers, Mrs. Sharp is concerned about the mother.
"You know she misses it," she said. "I just see it as something she did out of love -- because she couldn't take care of it.
"I picture this girl as probably young. . . . I'm just glad she didn't kill it. All I can think about is what that girl went through, walking up the steps. . . . It had to have been a lot of turmoil for her. I'd like to see the mother and child back together. She does love the baby, I know she does."
POLICE SEEK HELP
Maryland State Police are continuing their investigation in the case of the baby left on the steps of a church rectory Sunday in Galena. The officers ask that anyone who may have seen something unusual along Route 213 about 6:30 a.m. Sunday call (410) 758-1101.