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NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: New baby boxes are welcome additions

In November News-Sentinel.com wrote about a new Safe Haven Baby Box being added in Angola that allows people to anonymously leave newborns in hospitals and fire stations. That increased the number of baby boxes in the state to 16 at that time.

We also pointed out that Allen County had only one baby box, in Woodburn, the hometown of Safe Haven Baby Box Inc. founder Monica Kelsey. We stated we hoped that more boxes could be added in the near future, especially in Allen County and Northeast Indiana.

That has happened.

A baby box was dedicated last Sunday at a fire station on Hartzell Road in New Haven. And another was dedicated Monday at a fire station on South Chauncey Street in nearby Columbia City, increasing the number of baby boxes in the state to 19.

Baby boxes are padded, climate-controlled incubators, costing between $10,000 and $15,000, that are accessible from the outside of the fire stations or hospitals where they are installed and are equipped with silent alarms so someone can surrender their newborn anonymously with no questions asked. The alarms alert someone to respond to the baby within minutes, retrieving the infant from inside.

The non-profit Safe Haven Baby Box organization staffs a 24-hour National Crisis hotline (1-866-99BABY1) to give women the opportunity to talk to a trained licensed professional for help in deciding what to do about their newborn. Kelsey says their organization can get as many as 5,000 calls in a 24-hour period.

Indiana’s safe haven law allows a person to anonymously surrender a healthy baby up to 30 days old at any hospital emergency room, police or fire station without fear of criminal prosecution. Kelsey, who was abandoned when she was a baby, said Indiana had nine such surrenders at baby boxes during 2019.

It’s a good idea that has caught on here and in other states because it is designed to save the lives of newborns, and it works.

School bus safety citations rise

We’ve also written in the past year about new legislation being implemented in the wake of the October 2018 tragedy near Rochester, 70 miles northwest of Fort Wayne in Fulton County, where three children were fatally struck by a pickup and another was seriously injured as they were crossing the road to board a stopped school bus.

The driver of the pickup was sentenced in December to four years in prison.

The family of the children who were killed backed efforts to initiate a new state law that was approved last year to toughen penalties for passing stopped school buses.

The good news is that Indiana law enforcement announced Thursday they issued nearly 2,700 tickets and 1,400 warnings during the first two months of the 2019-20 school year for unsafe driving near school bus stops and bus routes. There were 453 citations for bus stop-arm violations and 1,239 for speeding.

A federal grant distributed by the Criminal Justice Institute provided $380,000 for nearly 40 police departments throughout the state to provide additional patrols to help improve school bus safety. Indiana Criminal Justice Institute Executive Director Devon McDonald said the patrol program was the state’s first such effort and involved school officials, bus drivers and police agencies identifying problem areas and routes.

We applaud the state’s response to the ongoing problem of careless and reckless driving near schools and school bus stops and routes. But we encourage our legislators and law enforcement to follow up on this initial effort by continuing to enforce the law consistently through the coming year.

It may save more children’s lives.

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