Kentucky’s first baby box for mothers in crisis to safely leave child installed

Published: Jul. 1, 2021 at 2:51 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 1, 2021 at 5:49 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - For the first time in Kentucky, there is another option for mothers who decide they can’t keep their babies.

In March, Gov. Andy Beshear signed House Bill 155 into law, allowing baby boxes to be installed in Kentucky for the first time.

Wednesday the first box in the state was presented at the Okolona Fire Station #1.

Stories about babies abandoned outside or in clear view of harms way are not uncommon. Babies like Monica Kelsey.

“I had to find my worth,” Kelsey said. “Knowing that not only was I conceived in rape, but she (my mom) also abandoned me like trash.”

Kelsey found her worth by saving other babies. She founded Safe Haven Baby Boxes Inc.

“Womens’ worst days,” Kelsey said. “I help them become days they can find peace with.”

House Bill 155 created Kentucky’s first box at Okolona Fire Station #1, located at 8501 Preston Highway. The box gives mothers and parents in crisis a safe option to give up their babies. It was an option that gave Tessa Higgs her greatest blessing.

“We were at the lowest part of our foster care journey,” Higgs said. “When we got the email for our interview, we were so discouraged we almost didn’t go.”

Higgs’ daughter Nola was a safe haven baby in 2019. Safe haven gives birth mothers 100 percent anonymity. All Higgs knew about Nola was she was free of drugs, breastfed, born a healthy weight and wrapped in the warm towel they still have.

“I just can’t imagine life without her,” Higgs said. “And not having that opportunity to have a baby, because I just didn’t think that was in the cards for me and my family.”

The boxes ensure babies find a foster or adoptive family within 30-45 days. It’s checked twice daily to make sure the alarm system is working.

Kelsey said there are now 74 boxes in the country and since 2016. Twelve babies have been put in boxes, and 99 were personally handed over to staff at a baby box location including Nola.

“She’s beautiful,” Higgs said. “She’s smart, she makes us laugh every day.”

Both Higgs and Kelsey know the lifesaving importance of the boxes on both ends.

“We give (mother’s) all her options,” Kelsey said. “Parenting, adoption, walking into a facility and handing your child to one of the firefighters or medical personal’s at a hospital or as a last resort if they don’t want any of those we’ll let them know how to use the baby box.”

The Safe Haven Baby Box organization also staffs a 24-hour hotline (1-866-99BABY1) to give women the opportunity to talk to a trained professional as they consider safely surrendering their baby. This is what they call the “workhorse” of the organization.

The safe box at the Okolona Fire Station #1 is located on the east side by the main door.

“What we do know is if this box is not available and a woman will not choose to surrender face to face, we’re going to find a baby in a dumpster,” Kelsey said.

Safe Haven Baby Boxes are currently available in Indiana, Ohio, Arkansas, Florida and now Kentucky.

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