LANSING, Mich. — Lawmakers in Michigan have passed a package of bills that authorize emergency workers to install baby boxes at fire stations and other locations in an effort to save newborns that might otherwise be abandoned in dumpsters or killed by their mothers.
“The purpose is so that children are not dumped in dumpsters or places where young parents are just scared [and] don’t know what else to do,” Oshtemo Township Fire Department Chief Mark Barnes told WOOD-TV. “We want to give them a safe place to turn to.”
The bills work in concert with the state’s Safe Delivery of Newborns Law, which states that women may surrender their newborns at a hospital, fire station or police station without penalty within 72 hours of the child’s birth.
The newly-passed legislation now extends the time that mothers may leave their baby at safe haven locations to 30 days, and allows the installment of baby boxes at the sites.
As previously reported, the boxes are similar to incubators in that they are padded, heated enclosures, 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.
Monica Kelsey of the organization Safe Haven Baby Boxes believes the boxes are beneficial because mothers who give up their newborn often don’t want their face to be seen, and sometimes they might leave the baby and run without anyone knowing the child is there. With the baby box law, emergency medical service (EMS) workers are notified immediately and arrive within minutes.
“Our research found that 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,” the Safe Haven Baby Boxes website outlines. “In one situation, a newborn baby boy was placed at the entrance of a hospital in a cardboard box, and when the child was finally found, the child had frozen to death and was deceased.”
The cause is near and dear to Kelsey as she herself was abandoned as a baby, and now serves as a firefighter. Her mother, who was 17 and had been raped, had initially sought an abortion, but could not bring herself to end her child’s life. She instead decided to leave the baby at a local hospital, and Kelsey was soon adopted into a loving family.
“I just praise God that my birth mother was strong enough to walk out of the abortion clinic,” Kelsey told reporters in 2013.
As previously reported, earlier this year, the Coolspring Township Volunteer Fire Department in Indiana received an alert that an infant had been left in its safe haven box, and firefighters arrived within minutes to find a baby girl inside, umbilical cord still attached.
“We don’t know the situation, but to be strong enough to make this choice is wonderful. They had to choose something very hard and they chose right,” Lt. Chuck Kohler told reporters.
A baby was also left at the fire station in 2017, and was named baby Hope by those who arrived on the scene. She was placed with a family one month later and was soon adopted.
According to Safe Haven Baby Boxes, 3,543 babies were surrendered in baby boxes nationwide in 2017. Over 200 babies have been safely left at Michigan hospitals and other locations since 2001 through its Safe Delivery of Newborns Law.