6th Arkansas box unveiled where newborns can be safely surrendered
Arkansas now has six boxes where a newborn child can be dropped off by anyone not ready to care for a child.
On Sunday, an unveiling and blessing ceremony was held for the latest Safe Haven Baby Box which is located at Maumelle Fire Department Station 1, 2000 Murphy Drive. Other cities in Arkansas that have the infant safety devices are Benton, Jonesboro, Rogers and Springdale.
Monica Kelsey, CEO and founder of Safe Haven Baby Box, said in an interview that after being abandoned as an infant herself, she wanted to provide a place where babies could be safely surrendered.
“A baby box is an extension of the already existing Safe Haven law, where a mother can walk into a Safe Haven location, hand her newborn child to a worker at that location and turn around and walk away, no questions asked,” Kelsey said.
The Arkansas Safe Haven law was passed in 2001, allowing mothers to surrender children at hospital emergency rooms or police departments. Manned fire stations were added to the locations in 2019.
According to the Arkansas Department of Human Services website, the state law allows a parent to bring a child who is 30-days-old or younger to the locations, “or a designated newborn safety device (often called a baby box) location anonymously and without facing prosecution for endangering or abandoning a child.”
In a press release, the Safe Haven Baby Box organization said Arkansas is one of 10 states with updated Safe Haven Laws to include additional surrender options.
“The box is an extension that allows the mother anonymity. That is important because some women don’t want their faces known or seen” Kelsey said.
A baby box is installed by cutting a hole in the side of a building and inserting the device. It has heating and cooling capabilities and locks once a newborn has been placed inside. When the box locks, a 911 call or a silent alarm is triggered. Only medical personnel can retrieve the newborn.
“Babies, on the average, in our boxes are pulled within two minutes, so this is a very quick process for these newborns,” Kelsey explained.
She says the organization also staffs a 24-hour hotline allowing women to talk with a trained professional as they consider safely surrendering their baby. The number is: 866-99BABY1.
Twelve babies have been surrendered inside Safe Haven Baby Boxes in the past four years, with six of those in 2020, the organization said in the press release.
Kelsey said the increase last year proves a need for the boxes. Just a box being present on a building serves as an educational tool for the community, she said, allowing people to know about options so they can make a safe decision.
Kelsey said she and her team watch for patterns of infant abandonment in areas, but also receive calls from fire stations that request the program. “We don’t take government funds,” she said. “One of the great things about Safe Haven Baby Box is we are funded by donations and fundraising.”