Safe Haven Baby Boxes for Weakley County
Story by Shannon Taylor Senior Investigative Reporter
A local resident wants to see Safe Haven Baby boxes come to Weakley County. Dresden resident Chris Wilson said, “While there is a safe haven law in place, there is no safety box that can keep people dropping a baby off anonymous to make it more accessible for those that need this.” Wilson even said that he’d be willing to help install the box.
A baby box is a safety device provided under the state’s Safe Haven Law. This law legally permits a mother in crisis to safely, securely and anonymously surrender their baby if they are unable to care for their baby. The baby box is installed in an exterior wall of a designated fire station or hospital. It has an exterior door that automatically locks upon placement of the newborn inside the box and an interior door that allows staff to secure the newborn from inside the building.
The first Safe Haven baby box (SHBB) was installed in 2016 and over 120 newborns have been surrendered so far Nationwide.
Infant abandonment and infanticide have continued throughout the country even with Safe Haven Baby Laws in every state for the past 10-20 years.
Mothers want and need anonymity when surrendering their newborn due to fear of being recognized, stigmas associated with giving their newborn up, fear of being prosecuted and fears of ignorance and misunderstanding.
The founder of SHBB, Monica Kelsey, started SHBB Inc. after learning she was abandoned as an infant and seeing a baby box operation at a church in South Africa. She made it her personal mission to do “whatever it takes to save the lives of innocent babies from being abandoned.”
SHBB takes the face-to-face interaction out of the surrender and protects the mother from being seen. SHBB organization’s primary goal is to raise awareness of the Safe Haven Law. Women in crisis can call the 24-hour hotline and can receive counseling and assistance. To date, the hotline has received over 8,000 calls from every state in the United States. Safe Haven Baby Boxes has referred over 500 women to crisis pregnancy centers, assisted in 7 adoption referrals, and have had over 100 legal Safe Haven surrenders. 23 babies have been surrendered in boxes since 2017. Three babies were surrendered to firefighters at Safe Haven Baby Box locations. Since April 2016, when the first box was installed, there have been no dead abandoned infants in the state of Indiana.
SHBB’s travels to fire stations and hospitals to train first responders on the Safe Haven Law. “We find that many of our first responders are familiar with the law but need more training on how to handle safe surrenders and their response to mothers-in-crisis. Please contact us for more information or to schedule training.”
Raising awareness of the Safe Haven Law is vital and educating our youth is one of our primary goals. Safe Haven Baby Boxes representatives have spoken to students in hundreds of schools and universities in the past five years. Our representatives are available to speak to any size group – individual classes or an assembly with all students. Please contact us if you are interested in having someone speak at your local school.
SHBB’s provides a last resort option. Women who call the National Safe Haven Baby Boxes Hotline are encouraged to do a face-to-face surrender for the sake of their rights and health. Each location offers copies that provide information about mother’s rights and medical information, along with reference to the Safe Haven Baby Boxes National Hotline and website.
Should the mother contact Safe Haven Baby Boxes after the surrender, she will be provided the same information provided with a face-to-face surrender and given guidance on where to seek help.
If a child is past the age of safe and legal surrender, mothers still have options. Please contact your local Department of Children Services and ask for assistance. If for any reason they are not able to assist you, call our hotline and we will do what we can to find you resources and assistance.
There is currently only one SHBB location in the state of Tennessee. Box#135 is located at the Knoxville Fire Department Station #17.
Tennessee’s Safe Haven Law was passed in 2001 and states that mothers can give up their newborn up to 14 days after giving birth at a “safe haven” facility. The goal has been so that mothers are free of prosecution, prevention of newborn abandonment and death and to protect mothers in crisis. The safe haven law was enacted after a newborn girl died of severe dehydration after her teenage mother left her in a shed in Townsend, Tennessee, in 2000, according to the nonprofit Secret Safe Place for Newborns of Tennessee.
Safe haven laws exist in every state, but not all laws protect the parents’ confidentiality or provide baby boxes for drop-offs. In Tennessee, only the mother can drop off a baby, but the hope is to expand the right to fathers in the near future.
Newborns are taken to a hospital for a medical examination and then taken to the local Department of Children’s Services office. Babies can be placed in foster care until finding an adoptive family.
Secret Safe Place for Newborns of Tennessee says more than 100 babies have been surrendered to facilities in Tennessee since the law was enacted.
All 50 states have safe haven laws to protect mothers from prosecution. The first was known as the “Baby Moses” law, and was passed in Texas in 1999, after numerous women abandoned infants in trash cans or dumpsters.
Experts in reproductive health and child welfare have stated that these boxes are likely to become more common since the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Communities wanting a SHBB should share information with community leaders, fire station or hospital.
SHBB provides the community an opportunity to play a role in proactively saving the lives of children since many are not aware of the Safe Haven Law. By having a Baby Box in the community, you are providing an opportunity to further educate about the law.
Contact SHBB to make them aware of interest in procuring a Baby Box for the community. They can confirm if your state follows their standard procedure or requires additional steps.
The fees for Safe Haven Baby Boxes range from $11,000-$16,000 depending on installation and location. This includes pre-installation, examination of location, administrative and legal resources, consultation on programs, assistance with raising funds to support the cost of the box, installation services, inspection of installation, training to all emergency personnel, marketing of the box, 24/7 hotline available to the community, advertising of the box and efforts to support raising awareness on a local, state and national level.
There is an annual fee of $300 which includes recertification of the box by a licensed contractor, maintenance of box from expected use and unlimited repairs and parts replacement as a result of a malfunction and not as a result of negligence or vandalism.
Other fees not included in estimated fee include a delivery fee of $500.00 if the box is not picked up at their Fort Wayne IN manufacturing facility to waive the delivery charge, labor and materials cost of $2,000-$3,500 (location may be able to get this donated), hook up to internal alarm system (internal alarm must go to 911 dispatch for use with the baby box) and that cost is $1,200 and the annual fee for monitoring is $300 annually paid by location to alarm company.
SHBB will be hosting a biweekly Google Meet meeting for individuals looking to place a Safe Haven Baby Box. During this meeting they go over the basics of the program and the steps of the process. Questions can be asked during the meeting. Development Coordinator, Mariah Betz can be contacted at 888-742-2133 extension 703 or email@example.com. Their website is www.shbb.org.