NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Why is Indiana so slow to get behind Safe Haven Baby Boxes?

Why is Indiana so slow to get behind Safe Haven Baby Boxes?

There are only two such baby boxes in all of Indiana, one in Woodburn and one in LaPorte County.

On Nov. 7 at 10:24 p.m., Coolspring Township Volunteer Fire Department Chief Mick Pawlik received an alarm from the Safe Haven Baby Box that had been installed at the fire station a year and a half before. He arrived within five minutes of the alarm and found a newborn infant inside, wrapped in a sweatshirt with part of its umbilical cord still attached.

It’s the first time a baby has been found in one of the baby boxes since the first one was installed in Woodburn in April of last year, believed to have been the first in the nation. The second baby box was installed later that same week at the Coolspring Township fire station, which is near Michigan City, where seven babies had been abandoned in the trash in the previous 15 years.

Indiana has had a Safe Haven Law for several years that allows an infant to be left anonymously at hospitals, police and fire stations without fear of prosecution. The baby boxes were designed as an extension of that law. They provide complete anonymity for a baby’s mother, and a silent alarm alerts emergency medical services personnel that the box is in use.

Monica Kelsey, a medic with the Three Rivers Ambulance Authority and a volunteer with the Woodburn Fire Department, is the founder of Safe Haven Baby Boxes Inc.

“Now this little girl is going to grow up because of our efforts, and she wouldn’t have,” Kelsey told the Chicago Tribune after the Coolspring rescue. Kelsey was abandoned as an infant.

Officials from the Indiana State Department of Health have expressed concerns about the lack of standards and protocols to ensure the safety of the boxes and say that more attention should be focused on the existing law.

“We have listened to all the concerns and listened to all the criticisms, and it’s helped us improve the box,” Kelsey told the Indianapolis Star. “We’ve never lost focus on our goal. It’s to save these babies that are abandoned.”

Only two baby boxes for all of Indiana can’t possibly serve the whole state. Kelsey says four more boxes are scheduled for installation in Indiana and Ohio next year. But how will people even know about them or where they are?

Indiana must install more baby boxes — how about in Fort Wayne? — and needs to do a better job at getting the word out on both the Safe Haven Law and the boxes to the people who might need them. A baby is still alive today because baby boxes work.