MICHIGAN CITY, IN (AP/WANE) — For the second time in five months, an infant has been left in a baby box at a northwest Indiana volunteer fire station.
Sunday night Lt. Chuck Kohler of the Coolspring Township Volunteer Fire Department outside Michigan City was headed to the grocery store when he got a page that the silent alarm for the baby box was going off. He got to the fire station in a minute and thirty seconds to find a newborn baby inside the Safe Haven Baby Box installed in one of the walls of the building.
“Any time I think about this I smile. The purpose of this box is being used and it’s a happy, joyous occasion and it’s wonderful,” Kohler said.
The baby appeared to be healthy and was taken to a hospital for care. The baby will now be placed in the custody of the Indiana Department of Child Services and available for adoption. The firefighters named this child Baby Grace.
“The baby looked to be well-taken care of. This mother loved this child and it takes a very special person to want what’s best for a child adn know you’re not it. That’s the ultimate act of selflessness and I’m so thankful she chose a safe place to surrender her child and not a dumpster or trash can like we see too many times,” Monica Kelsey, the founder of Save Haven Baby Boxes, said.
Last November, a baby girl was left in the same baby box. The firefighters named her Baby Hope. She was adopted in December.
There are two baby boxes in Indiana. The other one is in Woodburn in Allen County. They both were installed a little less than two years ago.
Kelsey said since her organization, Safe Haven Baby Boxes, which also includes a hotline parents can call for help, started in 2016, there haven’t been any abandoned babies found dead in Indiana.
“The stats we have for the last 17 years, we were having two to three babies found dead in our state every year. Since we started Safe Haven Baby Boxes and starting talking about it in schools and educating people on the Safe Haven law, we haven’t had any dead abandoned children in two years,” she said.
Kelsey said there have been more than 2,000 calls to the hotline in the last two years and they have helped mothers and fathers of 15 babies safely surrender their child in a Safe Haven location. Only two of those cases involved the child actually being placed in a baby box.
The Indiana Safe Haven law allows parents to surrender their newborn, less than 30 days old, at a hospital, fire station or police station without penalty.
“This is a working program and it’s showing others that it is,” Kelsey said.
There was debate in Indiana if the baby boxes should be included under the Safe Haven law because they allow the parents to leave their child without physically handing the baby to a first responder.
A new law just signed in Indiana last month, however, allows for the expansion of baby boxes in the state. A box is also scheduled to be installed in Ohio later this month.
“The Ohio Department of Health worked to make policies, procedures and protocols. They’re number two in abandonments, so they welcomed us into the state to help with the infant mortality rate. Now we have a state saying this is what’s safe, this is what we want you to do and this is how we’ll allow you to operate in our state. So we took that and are implementing it in Ohio and Pennsylvania as well,” Kelsey said.
The Ohio baby box will be required to have a medical bassinet inside, similar to what is in hospitals. The Indiana baby boxes will eventually be modified to have the same bassinet inside.
Kelsy, who was abandoned as a baby, is thrilled to see the program working.
“It’s amazing how I was abandoned and now I’m saving abandoned children. Christ has this all under control,” she said.
Parents in crisis who need help can call the Safe Haven Baby Boxes Hotline at: 1-866-99-BABY-1