SYRACUSE — Women in north central Indiana now have a safe and anonymous option for surrendering their baby if they feel they have no choice.
A Safe Haven Baby Box has been installed at Turkey Creek Fire Station #2, 8138 E. McClintic Road. The baby box was unveiled and blessed Friday.
This is the 11th box in Indiana (one installed in Warsaw is not yet operational) and a project that Turkey Creek Fire Chief Mickey Scott and his department has been working on for more than a year, after hearing about the Safe Haven boxes at a fire association meeting.
A press conference was held to unveil the baby box, which is on the east side of the fire station. Representatives from several organizations were present for the unveiling, including Monica Kelsey, founder and CEO of Safe Haven Baby Box. Kelsey shared her background and why such boxes are important to her.
Kelsey is the first lady of Woodburn, where her husband is mayor and is a retired firefighter and medic. She shared the story of a 17-year-old woman who was raped and left for dead at the side of the road in the early 1970s. When the victim discovered she was pregnant at a time when abortion was illegal, her mother suggested a back-alley abortionist. The girl didn’t go through with the abortion but when she delivered her baby she abandoned it two hours later.
That baby was Kelsey, who was then adopted. She later shared that she discovered her story when she was 37 and said she didn’t want another mother to go through what her mother did.
“I can’t change my past, but I can help women in the future," she said.
In 2016 Safe Haven Baby Box was launched with the first box in Kelsey's hometown. The boxes have heating and cooling features and lock as soon as a baby is placed inside. Kelsey showed that the boxes are designed with a removable bassinet so firefighters can quickly grab the bassinet and transport the baby to a hospital.
The boxes are designed with two alarms — the first alarm sounds when the box is opened so if a mother changes her mind the firefighters are still alerted. The second alarm sounds when the baby is left inside. Kelsey said the average time a baby is in the box is 2.5 minutes — the longest time was 4 minutes and the shortest response time to date was .90 seconds.
The boxes are leased, not sold to the fire station, at a cost of $10,000. Kelsey said it cost about $5,200 to build the boxes and the rest is put aside for maintenance and updates. There’s also a $200 annual fee. Kelsey said her organization maintains the boxes.
Kelsey said fire station #2 was chosen for its anonymity factor.
“It’s kind of off the beaten path,” she said, which will make it more comfortable for moms. She said they didn’t want to place the box in the busy downtown fire station with cameras around because they know women who are desperate want anonymity.
Despite Indiana’s Safe Haven law that’s been in effect for 20 years, often the babies are not taken inside and are instead left outside of a hospital or fire station. Kelsey said 58 women have gone through their program and surrendered their babies. Just a couple of babies have been left inside the operational baby boxes, but all involved said that’s OK with them as they all hope the box will never be used.
“This is a last resort option,” Kelsey said. “If they call the hotline we’ll encourage them to walk inside and hand over the baby. But if they’re not going to do that, then this is a safe, legal option.”
Turkey Creek Fire Chief Mickey Scott thanked “everyone that has worked with our department and raised funds for this project in order to provide this Safe Haven Baby Box in our community.”
Scott said he wanted to remind everyone that a person can surrender a baby up to the age of 30 days to any fire station, police station or hospital in the state with no repercussion under the Safe Haven law.
“We encourage anyone considering surrendering an infant to seek professional counseling prior to doing so. Our hope is that this Safe Haven Baby Box never has a need to be utilized, but at the same time our department also understands that this Safe Haven Baby Box could someday save the life on an infant that would possibly be lost.”
Linda Znachko of He Knows Your Name, met Kelsey at the funeral of a deceased, abandoned baby found in Eagle Park in Indianapolis.
The baby was wrapped in a Vincennes University Aviation sweatshirt so Znachko named her Amelia and gave her a funeral. Znachko said, “Every woman in fear needs options.” She partnered with Safe Haven Baby Box and each sign contains Amelia’s footprint — the legacy she left behind.
Znachko said she believes “hope for the future waits inside the box” and considers it a “birthday party waiting to happen.”
Kelsey said those who organized to fund the box want everyone to know the box is now available in Kosciusko County — or any county — if a woman is in crisis and needs helps.
“No shame, no blame, no names,” she said.
ABOUT SAFE HAVEN
Safe Haven Baby Box has a 24 hour, 7 day a week hotline to help women in crisis pregnancies. Call 1-866-99BABY1. Women do not need to live in Syracuse or Kosciusko County in order to utilize the box.