Ten-year-old Lorraine Rogers appeared heartbroken yesterday as she looked at the newborn girl, a pink bow on her head, lying in the incubator at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital.
"Everybody fell in love with her," said Lorraine, referring to the infant she found abandoned in the back of her father's van Thursday night in Gaithersburg. "It was very hard to convince me to give the baby back."
Yesterday, Montgomery County police, social service workers and hospital officials made a public plea for the baby's parents to come forward.
"It's important to know more about the family history so we can anticipate problems the baby may have without doing extensive tests on the baby," said Robert Buczek, a neonatologist and director of the hospital's nursery.
The infant was in good condition, Buczek said. The baby girl, believed to be two or three days old, weighs 6 pounds, 4 ounces, and is 19 inches long, he said.
"There will not be a criminal prosecution of the parents if they identify themselves," said Detective Wilfried G. Stuehmeier of the police department's Youth Division. Police have no leads on the parents' identity, Stuehmeier said. Authorities believe the mother may be a teenager or the victim of rape or incest because abandoning a baby in this way is a sign of desperation by someone who is frightened or ashamed.
Patricia A. Watters, chief of the county's child welfare services, said her office has received "hundreds of calls" from people wanting to adopt the abandoned baby. But Watters said the infant, who is in the agency's custody, will be placed in a temporary foster home until a court-approved adoption, a procedure that usually takes about six months.
Members of the Rogers family said yesterday they want to adopt "Jessica Kathleen Montgomery," the name given to the unidentified baby by a juvenile court judge. "I loved her from the first time I saw her," said Grace Rogers, 33, the mother of four children.
Lorraine Rogers discovered the baby lying on the back seat of the van around 6:30 p.m. Thursday as her father was refueling at a Mobil gas station.
"I started screaming, 'Daddy, there's a baby in the van,' " the fifth-grader said yesterday. "At first, he thought I was joking. Then, he looked in the window and said, 'Oh, my Lord, get your mother.' "
The Rev. Joseph Rogers, 35, pastor of The House of the Lord church in Northwest Washington, said he and his family routinely attend Bible study classes on Thursday evenings.
After picking up his wife from work about 5 p.m. Thursday, Rogers said he ran inside the house to get his family. "Normally I lock the van, but for some reason, I left it unlocked then." He said the family left an hour later.
The Rogers family and authorities believe the infant was placed in the van while the minister was in the house.
"They know my Dad is a preacher," Lorraine Rogers said yesterday. "They had the perfect timing. They knew us. Nobody would leave a baby in a van when it's cold because it could freeze to death."
When found, the infant was wrapped in a light blanket and a cloth diaper, said Joseph Rogers. He said the family immediately returned home to change the baby's diaper. "Everybody was so excited," he said. "We have a special bond with this baby. Whoever left it had a vote of confidence that the child would be in good care with us."
As the Rogers family prepared to leave the hospital yesterday, Lorraine tucked a special memento into the incubator: a multicolored stuffed caterpillar she had purchased for the girl.
Anyone with information about the baby's parents can call Buczek at the hospital or the child protection services office at 301-217-4417.