Indiana has a new option for desperate mothers who cannot care for their newborn babies.
Two Safe Haven Baby Boxes, sometimes called baby hatches, recently were installed in Indiana fire stations to receive abandoned infants in a safe, warm environment, according to The Daily Mail. The boxes have padding and climate control, and they alert authorities when a baby has been placed inside. Several European and Asian countries have been using them for years, but Indiana is the first state in the U.S. to initiate the project.
A key leader behind the effort is Monica Kelsey, whose mother abandoned her at a safe haven when she was a baby. Kelsey is a pro-life speaker and writer who works to raise awareness about infant abandonment, safe haven laws and resources for moms and babies.
All 50 U.S. states have save haven laws that allow mothers in crisis to leave their newborns in a safe environment, such as a hospital or fire station, without questions or repercussions. Kelsey is one of about 3,000 babies who have been saved through safe havens. According to The Safe Haven Alliance, 13 babies in Indiana were abandoned at safe havens since the state law took effect in 2000.
Kelsey suggested the boxes to Indiana state Rep. Casey Cox, who then began advocating for the project, the report states. The boxes cost about $1,500, and there are plans to install 100 of them across the state, according to the report. The baby drop boxes are part of a larger effort to raise awareness about infant abandonment in Indiana.
However, some officials have expressed concerns about the drop boxes. According to the report:
The boxes have been installed despite State Department of Health officials advising last December they not be used.
‘A team of child health experts … carefully studied available research on newborn safety incubators and determined that there are no standards or protocols that can ensure the safety of children placed in these devices,’ Jennifer O’Malley, State Department of Health spokeswoman, told IndyStar.
Advocates argue, however, that despite save haven laws, many children do not make it into safe hands and that new parents need a better way to surrender their newborn.
Dawn Geras, president of the Save the Abandoned Babies Foundation in Chicago, said that while safe haven laws have resulted in more than 2,800 safe surrenders since 1999, more than 1,400 other children have been found illegally abandoned, nearly two-thirds of whom died.
Baby boxes, known in some countries as baby hatches or angel cradles, originated in medieval times, when convents were equipped with revolving doors known as ‘foundling wheels.’
Kelsey told the Indy Star that the boxes were tested and improved to address these concerns.
“We have listened to all the concerns and listened to all the criticisms, and it’s helped us improve the box,” she said. “We’ve never lost focus on our goal. It’s to save these babies that are abandoned.”
Kelsey hopes the boxes and increased awareness will help save babies like Amelia Grace Hope, who died in December 2014 after being abandoned in an Indianapolis park.
In response to the baby’s death, Kelsey told LifeNews in 2015:
As a firefighter/medic for the state of Indiana and the fact that I was abandoned as a child, I feel a personal need to educate our youth and our communities about this life-saving law. In a perfect world, we would prefer that the mother come forward, visit a local crisis pregnancy center, and receive the assistance and counseling she needs; however, this may not be possible in all situations. With these cases, we want young women to know that the Safe Haven Law is there as an option that respects the lives of both mother and child.
If you or someone you know would like more information about relinquishing a newborn child, please call 1-877-796-HOPE or go to www.SafeHavenLaw.com.