Newborn legally surrendered to Safe Haven Baby Box in Elkhart County

1 of 2 newborns to be surrendered last week in the state of Indiana
Published: Mar. 6, 2023 at 9:52 AM EST
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ELKHART COUNTY, Ind. (WNDU) - Two newborns were surrendered within 48 hours of each other last week at two separate firehouses in Indiana, including one right here in Michiana.

Officials with Safe Haven Baby Boxes say the first baby was surrendered at the Cleveland Township Fire Station in Elkhart County, then another baby was surrendered less than two days later at the Wayne Township Fire Station’s baby box in Indianapolis. Officials did not give exact dates or times for when those babies were surrendered.

“The crew immediately initiated transport to the hospital within minutes of receiving that alarm, provided supportive care en route to the hospital and transferred care once upon arrival,” explained Chief Mark Travis, of Cleveland Township Fire Department.

According to its website, the Safe Haven Baby Boxes organization’s primary goal is to raise awareness of the Safe Haven Law in Indiana, which allows mothers to safely surrender their baby anonymously if they are no older than 30 days old. Baby boxes are safe incubators that have alarm systems, so 911 is notified as soon as a baby is placed inside.

These mark the first two baby box surrenders in Indiana in 2023. Florida and Kentucky have each had one newborn saved via a baby box this year as well.

According to a press release from Safe Haven Baby Boxes, Cleveland Township Fire Chief Mark Travis stated that the Baby Box worked exactly as it was designed to. “Cleveland Township Fire Department is grateful that we were able to provide a safe venue and opportunity for a parent to safely surrender their infant. I am proud of the firefighters for their quick response and professionalism in dealing with this anonymous, lifesaving decision made by this parent.”

At a Monday news conference, Joe Kelsey, Chief Operating Officer of Safe Haven Baby Box, said while the non-profit doesn’t recommend mothers using the baby box as a first option of relinquishing custody, they are there to support mothers nonetheless.

“If she needs to make that decision but cannot face somebody doing that, that’s why we are there. So it’s a victory for the mother because she saved the baby’s life, and she saved her life, too,” said Kelsey.

Martha Walorski, mother of late U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, spoke on behalf of her daughter, who was a strong supporter of baby boxes.

“As a mother, a grandmother, and a great-grandmother, I want to say to the mother, thank you so much for giving this baby the chance to be loved, to be taken care of, and to grow up and be a good citizen. Thank you so much for what you’ve done,” said Walorski.

26 babies have been placed in a baby box since November 2017. Nationwide, 125 surrenders have resulted from calling the National Safe Haven hotline, 1-866-99BABY1. In 2022, a record eight newborns were surrendered via a baby box.

There are 96 baby box locations across the state of Indiana and 136 baby boxes in the nation. Michiana has several locations: Elkhart; South Bend; Mishawaka; Plymouth; Rochester; Warsaw; and Michigan City.

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