Safe Haven Baby Boxes installs 200th box in U.S.; more than six babies surrendered so far this year

Safe Haven Baby Boxes installs 200th box in U.S.; more than six babies surrendered so far this yearKelsey with the Georgetown, Ind., fire crew (Safe Haven Baby Boxes)

In early February, Safe Haven Baby Boxes celebrated the 200th installation of a baby box, helping birth parents to keep their infants safe and keeping them anonymous.

“That’s huge,” said Monica Kelsey, the organization’s executive director.

Kelsey attended the “blessing” of the box, which was installed in the community of Roswell, N.M. Just a day prior, an infant was relinquished in a Safe Haven Baby Box (SHBB) in Belen, another community in the state. Roswell marks the sixth SHBB in New Mexico.

Already this year, SHBB staff have assisted more than a half-dozen birth parents surrender their babies safely. 

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The first surrender of 2024 took place inside a baby box in Georgetown Township, Ind., located near the Kentucky border. This was also the first surrender at that fire station after the box was installed in 2022. 

“They had not had a surrender in that baby box yet, and it was the very first surrender for Georgetown,” Kelsey said. “We’re very thankful that the birth parent trusted the Georgetown fire department and Safe Haven Baby Boxes to keep this child safe. The process worked exactly as it was designed to.”

Kelsey and the crew from the firehouse at which the baby box was installed held a press conference in January to announce the surrender.

The need for safe haven laws and boxes

Other surrenders occurred in another Indiana community, in Orlando, Fla., in Ohio, in Texas, and in South Carolina, Kelsey said. One of these happened inside a baby box, while the other five were direct hand-offs, Kelsey said, which means the birthparent placed the infant into the arms of a first responder or hospital worker.

“Some of these locations where these babies are being surrendered do have baby boxes,” Kelsey said. “Our goal though is always to get these babies into the hands of first responders first, but if they won’t, we let these parents know how to use a baby box.”

Helping birthparents who feel they cannot care for their child is part of the SHBB program. Every state has a Safe Haven law, but states vary on the location of where a baby can be left and the timeframe that a birthparent has to seek that help. 

The Charlotte Lozier Institute reported in December 2021, “Each state establishes its own criteria under its Safe Haven law, but every state specifies valid locations and age cutoffs for infant relinquishment.”

Birthparents who seek to safely relinquish their child through Safe Haven laws often contact SHBB, where they will be educated on state laws and given locations for anonymous relinquishment. However, there is no pressure to surrender the child.

“We’re going to give [birthparents] resources that are good for [them],” Kelsey said. “We’re not going to tell you what to do.”

Education about SHBB is an integral part of the program, and one way Kelsey and her team have discovered to bring awareness and the educational component to women and men is through TikTok.

“We hear from a lot of these parents after they surrender, some of them before, and a lot of them are seeing us on TikTok,” she said. “We have almost a million followers on TikTok.”

A board member suggested using that platform and though she was hesitant at first, Kelsey discovered that’s a good way to get the word out about SHBB.

“The very first video I did had 27 million hits on it,” she said. “Since then, one of our videos has over 51 million views on it. So, the education piece is really the social media aspect. We have to be where these moms and these dads are, and right now, that’s where they’re at. Wherever they are, we’re going to be there.”

‘Turning the tide’ on infant abandonment and death

Founded in 2015, SHBB now has boxes installed in 15 different states. More are scheduled to be installed this year. Kelsey longs to see every state have at least one, and her long-term goal is to “end of infant abandonment.”

Last year, a record number of baby box surrenders, 17, took place across the country, Kelsey said.

Education and anonymity are key, she added.

Tweet This: Last year a record number of baby box surrenders, 17, took place across the country

The efforts of SHBB have made an impact, she said. For example, in Indiana where the organization is located used to see an average of two abandoned, dead infants each year, according to Kelsy. After SHBB started, “we’ve not had a dead infant in our state,” she said.

“I truly believe that the babies destined for trash cans and dumpsters are being placed in our boxes,” said Kelsey. “I think it’s turning the tide. I think these women understand we’re going to keep them safe as long as they keep their baby safe. They know we have their backs.”

She added, “That’s the beauty of the baby box – it provides that anonymity women have been asking for.”

Birthparents who want to explore their options after their child is born, or who want to learn more about Safe Haven Baby Boxes, are encouraged to call or text the organization at 1-866-99BABY1. They will be connected to a licensed counselor.

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