JACKSON COUNTY, In. (WAVE) - No shame, no blame, no name and no judgement.
That’s how Monica Kelsey set out to run Safe Haven Baby Boxes, a non-profit which allows people to anonymously surrender their healthy newborn without fear of criminal prosecution.
Kelsey, a firefighter, paramedic and pro-life speaker, was inspired to start the organization based on her own past. Kelsey shared at 37 years old she discovered she was conceived in rape and abandoned at birth. Previously, she had just known she was adopted.
“I’m allowing women to make the same option that my birth mom did, except a safe way and not showing judgement towards the mom,” Kelsey explained.
A brand new box was installed outside Fire Station #3 in Seymour on Friday, marking the ninth in the state of Indiana. The location on Meadowbrook Drive was chosen due to it’s close proximity to I-65 in Jackson County. The boxes are climate-controlled and an alarm sounds inside the station once it is opened. After a baby is placed inside, a second silent alarm goes off. Once the box is closed, it’s magnetically locked, meaning the person dropping off the child cannot change their mind.
A 24-hour hotline (1-866-99BABY1) is available for women to speak with a trained professional as they consider surrendering their baby.
“When a woman calls our hotline we’re asking her if she can walk into a facility and hand that child to a person," Kelsey said. "That has been accomplished at two locations that had baby boxes. The woman bypassed the baby box at the location and handed the child to a firefighter.”
51 babies have been surrendered safely as a result of calling the hotline since the first box was installed in 2016, according to the organization. Four of those surrenders were in 2019.
There are no baby boxes in Kentucky, though state law does allow a newborn baby to be left with any emergency medical services provider, police officer, firefighter or hospital employee in the state.
“A lot of people think that the Safe Haven law is enough, where you can walk into a fire station and hand your child over, and it’s not enough," Kelsey explained. "Women want complete anonymity and that’s what these boxes give them is complete anonymity.”
Kelsey has encouraged the Commonwealth to be more proactive.
“It’s kind of like an AED at a mall,” Kelsey said. “You know, why do we have AEDs at a mall? In case somebody goes into cardiac arrest. Do you want to use it? No, you don’t want to use it, but you’re thankful it’s there if you need it and that’s what these boxes are."
The Seymour box features a footprint in honor of Baby Amelia, a child abandoned at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis in December 2014.
Boxes cost around $10,000 to install. Funds for this particular project were raised in part by Hunter Wart, a recent graduate of Columbus North High School. He took on the task for his senior project, earning money by cutting grass and collecting cans and scrap metal.