By City of Muncie Communications—
Muncie, IN—In less than 5 years, the Safe Haven Baby Boxes organization has made great strides in accomplishing its primary goal of raising awareness of the Safe Haven Law and eliminating illegal infant abandonment. On Saturday, November 7th, that mission was celebrated as the 50th Safe Haven Baby Box in the nation went live in Muncie, Indiana. Two babies that were surrendered under Indiana’s Safe Haven Law were in attendance at the event along with their adoptive families. The Safe Haven Baby Box is located at Muncie Fire Station #1, at 421 East Jackson Street and will be made available to the public after the community unveiling.
Indiana leads the nation with 46 Safe Haven Baby Boxes available at hospitals and fire stations and the number of available Baby Boxes has more than doubled since the end of 2019. Several communities in Indiana, Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Arkansas have plans to install Safe Haven Baby Boxes within the next year and many legislators in other states are currently analyzing or considering updating their Safe Haven Laws to allow for devices like a Baby Box. Click here for Safe Haven Baby Box locations.
Safe Haven Baby Box Inc. is a non-profit founded by firefighter/medic Monica Kelsey. Kelsey was abandoned as an infant and founded the organization after seeing illegal abandonment throughout the country despite the existence of the Safe Haven laws for almost 20 years. Kelsey created a program that goes beyond the Baby Box by offering a Safe Haven National Crisis Hotline available (1-866-99BABY1), providing direct access to counseling services to those in desperate situations who may believe they have nowhere else to turn. Safe Haven Baby Boxes receives calls from all states in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Educating communities is a top priority for the organization, which offers Safe Haven education programs to hospitals, fire stations, and schools. While social media and billboards offer awareness opportunities to others, the very presence of the Safe Haven Baby Box proves to be an effective way to increase the overall understanding of the Safe Haven Law and the additional resource for a safe and anonymous surrender.
The Safe Haven Law in Indiana allows a person to surrender a healthy newborn 30 days old or younger without fear of criminal prosecution. Kelsey wants parents in crisis to have the necessary resources to give them a chance to find help. “We know a parent is struggling with the hardest decision of their life and we are available to walk alongside anyone who feels there is no other option than to surrender the infant. Counseling and support services are available and have been used before and after a parent decides to have an adoption plan, to parent, or to surrender under the Safe Haven Law,” says Kelsey.
Safe Haven Baby Boxes program costs approximately $15,000 with the installation. Funds for implementing the Safe Haven Baby Boxes program at the Muncie Fire Station were donated by Prevent Child Abuse Council of Delaware County. “I would like to thank everybody involved with the Safe Haven Baby Box. The Muncie Fire Department is honored to be a part of such a great project and look forward to serving the Muncie community in this endeavor and other worthwhile projects,” says Muncie Fire Chief, David Miller.
Before the first available Safe Haven Baby Box in early 2016, Indiana averaged 2 to 3 infants abandoned a year with many of them found deceased. Since then, Indiana has not had a deceased infant reported from abandonment. Nine infants have been surrendered in a Safe Haven Baby Box since November 2017. Five of the nine have taken place in 2020. The Baby Boxes have a heating and cooling feature and are equipped with alarm systems to notify 9-1-1 once the infant is placed in the medical bassinet. The newborn is retrieved from the inside of the building within minutes of the alarm notification and taken to the hospital for evaluation. Babies that are surrendered are typically in foster care for approximately a month, then placed in their permanent home.