What is a Safe Haven Baby Box?
Under Indiana law, a mother may surrender her baby legally and anonymously at a Safe Haven location such as hospitals, fire stations, or police stations. Authorities will then place the baby in the custody of the Department of Child Services.
Safe Haven Baby Boxes are designed to allow mothers to surrender their babies without face-to-face interaction with officials. Once a baby is placed inside the temperature-controlled box, an alarm notifies officials, and the box locks to keep the baby safe until they arrive.
Advocates of the boxes say that they are a last resort for women who are seeking to remain anonymous and allow babies to remain safe while they do so.
Some state officials objected to the use of the boxes, citing costs and a lack of research on the subject, according to the Indianapolis Star. They argued that the state should focus its attention on the existing safe haven law.
According to the La Porte County Sheriff's Office, the Safe Haven Baby Box was installed at the fire department on April 28, 2016, and it is just the second such device installed in the United States.
WGN reported that the Safe Haven box’s alarm went off notifying officials at the Coolspring Township Fire Department that a baby had been placed inside.
Chief Mick Pawlik told WGN that the station has had false alarms with the box, and he initially thought someone might have placed a doll inside.
“So I open it up and that baby just looked me right in the eyes,” Pawlik said. “Now the baby is quiet, calm, checked her out real quick inside of the box.”
First responders dubbed the infant Baby Hope. They said she was only about an hour old and was still covered in blood.
“I don’t know what this girl went through. I have nothing but good things to say. It’s a win-win scenario,” Pawlik said of finding the baby safe inside the box, adding, “Until you’re a firefighter, cop, medic, and see all the bad stuff that we see. I’m elated for once we see something good.”
Assistant Chief Warren Smith told WGN the department is thankful the mother made the right choice and encouraged her to seek help and medical attention.
“I would really like to thank the mother who did this for doing the right thing,” Smith said. “She stepped up to the plate and did the right thing. She turned the baby into the Baby box instead of us finding the baby in a ditch or woods. We hear so many horrible stories.”
What did the founder of Safe Haven Baby Boxes say?
Monica Kelsey, a firefighter and the founder of Safe Haven Baby Boxes, told WNDU-TV that when she heard the news that a baby had been left in the box, "I had to sit down and take a deep breath because all of this hard work that we had been working so hard for has finally paid off so my heart is full, my heart is full."
"I'm here to thank this young mother for doing the right thing because she had an option to throw that child in the trash and she chose not to,” she said. “She chose to walk or drive down to that fire station, open that baby box and place the baby inside."
Kelsey said her biological mother was raped at 17 and abandoned her daughter two hours after she was born.
"Having a back story myself of being abandoned as a child I've always had the want to help," Kelsey said. "Eighteen months after the box was installed in the building it held its first baby."