The Woodburn Volunteer Fire Department, located about 15 miles east of Fort Wayne in Indiana, is offering a new amenity for mothers. It’s called the Safe Haven Baby Box, a padded, climate-controlled container for newborns. It’s connected to a security system, so the emergency personnel inside the building know when a baby has been placed there, and can be there within moments. These boxes aren’t for babysitting, or keeping a child safe for a short period. They’re for dropping off unwanted infants.
Every state in the United States and the District of Columbia has a safe haven law, a statute that decriminalizes the act of leaving an unharmed infant at a sanctioned location, like an emergency room or fire station. Babies left under these laws become wards of the state, and the parent who left them is safe from prosecution. The original purpose of these statutes was to lessen the occurrence of infanticide and abandonment in dangerous situations. The Safe Haven Baby Box is meant to make safe abandonment easier.
Monica Kelsey, a volunteer with the fire department, has been advocating for baby boxes in Indiana for years. She explained that some people want total anonymity, citing a case where a young woman called a hotline Kelsey volunteered for. She asked for the location of a baby box, refusing to go to a hospital or fire station. Eventually, her boyfriend brought the baby to a hospital, but the situation could easily happen again.
“This is not criminal,” Kelsey told the Associated Press. “This is legal. We don’t want to push women away.”
Critics of the boxes say they make it easier for parents to give up a child without considering other options. The baby boxes aren’t likely to go anywhere soon, however — two have already been installed in Indiana, where State Rep. Casey Cox and Gov. Mike Pence’s administrations have been working together on safety protocols.