A Florida city celebrated the safe surrender of an infant this month in a specially designed Safe Haven Baby Box that protects newborns from infanticide.
NPR reports the baby was the first to be surrendered in the baby box at the Ocala Fire Rescue in central Florida, more than two years after the fire station installed it.
“After experiencing our first surrendered child, it’s clear that this resource saves lives. Knowing that Ocala’s Safe Haven Baby Boxes just saved a life is our greatest reward,” Fire Chief Clint Welborn said, according to WESH News 2.
Monica Kelsey, who was abandoned as an infant and later adopted, founded the Safe Haven Baby Boxes organization in 2015 to educate and advocate for safe haven laws and baby boxes across the U.S.
The Ocala baby is the 23rd to have been safely surrendered in a Safe Haven Baby Boxes so far, according to her organization.
“We are so proud of this selfless parent who has lovingly surrendered their infant via a Baby Box over the holiday!” Kelsey said in a statement to the local news. “We are so happy this community was prepared for this situation. We know this baby will be so loved by an adoptive family, and we are so thrilled to be a part of protecting infants from abandonment.”
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To-date, the organization has helped install 134 baby boxes in communities across the country. Kelsey said each box is temperature controlled and has an alarm that alerts authorities as soon as a baby is placed inside. She said they cost about $200 to $300 per year to maintain.
“When we launched this box in Florida, I knew it wasn’t going to be an if, it was going to be a matter of when,” Kelsey told NPR. “This does not come as a surprise.”
Local authorities did not provide additional details about the baby, but every surrendered baby immediately is taken to the hospital for medical treatment and placed in the care of the state until an adoptive family can be found.
Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn described the baby as a “miracle” after learning of the news.
“I’m so happy to hear of this miracle baby. I knew when we did this in 2020, this day would come – we all did – we just didn’t know when. We’re glad it was there as a resource for the mother of this child. I’m sure there will be a bright future ahead for this precious child,” Guinn said in a statement.
All 50 states have safe haven laws that allow mothers to safely surrender their newborns to authorities, often at a police station or hospital, without questions or repercussions as long as the infant is unharmed. Typically, laws allow safe surrender within a certain time limit, such as up to 30 days after the baby’s birth.
According to Centers for Disease Control research, “Since 1999, when Texas became the first state to implement Safe Haven Laws, an estimated 4,100 infants have been safely surrendered nationwide.”