INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — An Indiana woman is pushing back after being told that her safe haven baby boxes do not fall under current safe haven regulations and may result in abandonment charges for any mother who uses them.
As previously reported, Monica Kelsey, founder of Safe Haven Baby Boxes, installed a box at a local firehouse in Michigan City last month and another in Woodburn in April.
The safe haven boxes are meant to be an extension of the state’s existing safe haven law, which allows mothers to anonymously leave their babies at hospitals, police stations and firehouses within the first 30 days after birth without punishment.
“What we are finding is some women want complete anonymity and are dropping off their newborns at the doors of fire stations and hospitals without doing the face to face interaction,” Kelsey outlines on the Safe Haven Baby Boxes website. “These women love their children and they want to do what’s best for the child, but they don’t want to have their faces seen.”
The boxes are similar to incubators in that they are padded, heated boxes, but also feature a device that notifies workers whenever a baby is placed inside. Emergency personnel are to remove the baby from the box within five minutes of the notification, and the child is then cared for and placed into the hands of Child Protective Services.
But Indiana officials have taken issue with the boxes, and this past week, the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) and the Indiana Department of Health (DOH) released a joint statement asserting that the effort is questionable.
“There is simply no evidence to suggest the use of baby boxes is a safe or prudent way to surrender a child. For this reason, the installation of baby boxes is not a state-led or endorsed endeavor,” the groups said.
“However, under Indiana’s Safe Haven law, an infant less than 30-days-old may be surrendered to a person who is an Emergency Medical Services provider,” they continued. “This allows medical professionals to administer medical care if the infant has a medical emergency or needs basic medical attention.”
“Fundamentally, the Indiana Safe Haven law as it currently stands must be followed, because it is the best way to safely surrender an infant anonymously.”
DCS and DOH both opine that women could face child abandonment charges if they utilize a drop box as opposed to a hospital or similar location.
But Kelsey has now started a legal fund to defend any mothers if the state “presses charges against a mother who places her child in one of our baby boxes.”
“We will defend her to the hilt,” she said, noting that she has no intention to stop installing the boxes.
“We have to regain our trust with these women that DCS has pushed away,” Kelsey told the Associated Press. “That’s why we’re trying to connect with the women, so they understand that we stand behind them if they choose this because it is legal.”
“We’ll move forward and continue to move forward because we’re not breaking any state or federal regulations,” she also told local television station Fox59.
As previously reported, a similar effort has been launched in Kennesaw, Georgia by two women who lead “The Hope Box.” The women were inspired by the documentary “The Drop Box,” which tells the true story of South Korean pastor Lee Jong-rak, who is credited with saving countless abandoned babies who might have otherwise have died after being left on the streets by their mothers.