INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Officials with Safe Haven Baby Boxes reported a safe infant surrender Sunday evening at Decatur Township Fire Station 74.
The founder of Safe Haven Baby Boxes, Monica Kelsey, said the young parent, who will remain anonymous, appeared at the fire station around 7:30 p.m. Sunday with a healthy newborn infant.
The 2018 Safe Haven Baby Law became effective that same day, approving the 24-hour-staffed fire station as a location for a Safe Haven Baby Box. As of Sunday, the box had not yet been installed into the fire station’s exterior wall.
Kelsey said the young parent could not use the baby box and instead delivered her child face-to-face to a firefighter under the Safe Haven Baby Law passed in Indiana in 2000.
“The newborn appeared to be healthy and well taken care of. Under Indiana’s Safe Haven Law, it allows any parent or responsible adult to surrender a child 30 days or less at any fire station, police station or hospital without fear of prosecution. This parent followed this law,” Kelsey said.
She explained that firefighters took the baby to a nearby Indianapolis hospital to be checked out and delivered to the Indiana Department of Child Services. She called Monday a “day of celebration” and said, even though the baby box wasn’t operational, the media coverage of the upcoming baby box must have caught the attention of this young parent.
“These parents needed to see their options last week and was relieved to learn this amazing program was brought to Indianapolis, to Marion County,” she said. “I want to thank the parents who surrendered this child safely and anonymously. This difficult decision was not easy for you and we know this.”
Decatur Township Fire Chief Pascal Arnes was not at the station Sunday night but described a scene of excitement and joy among the firefighters that they had helped a young parent bring a newborn into a safe environment. He also explained the baby box’s installation delay is due to building construction issues.
“We are hoping to have this installed in the next couple of weeks,” the fire chief said.
The Safe Haven Crisis Hotline was active Sunday and received phone calls from Indiana numbers, according to Kelsey. She encouraged women in pregnancy crisis to call the hotline before resorting to using a baby box to fully explore her options, including choosing the adoptive family for her baby.
“It’s not that these parents don’t love their child, because they absolutely love their child,” Kelsey said. “They’re just in a situation that none of us can probably understand. Our organization has no judgment, and we won’t start now.”
Walter Peycha, director of Safe Haven awareness and education, said at this point for the baby, it is very important for laws to be followed by all parties.
“DCS will take the child, immediately place a 30-day CHINS hold, that’s ‘Child in Need of Services,'” he said. “They will place child with foster family, pending anybody showing up to claim to be the parent. Should someone do that, a DNA is taken to determine parenting. On the 31st day assuming no parents come about, the child is eligible to be placed for adoption.”
Peycha said the 30-day hold is important to give the biological parents time to thoughtfully consider their decision and update their decision if their circumstances change. He said the child’s best interest is always priority and if possible, families should remain together.
“It could be one of this things where relief is provided for a week and they’re thinking what did I just do? And maybe I want to be a parent, so that’s why the 30 days are there,” Peycha said.
Baby Box sponsor Linda Znachko with He Knows Your Name Miniseries described the baby as “chubby” and said while she can’t reveal the baby’s gender or ethnicity, she, the fire chief and Monica Kelsey agreed to refer to the baby as “Baby Faith.”
“We decided this morning that these parents exercised faith in the law by doing a bold and courageous thing by stepping forward,” she said, noting that the last fatal baby abandonment in Indianapolis was in 2014. “We are leading the way in our country for the Safe Haven Law and the knowledge of it.”
Decatur Township Fire Station No. 74, 3750 S. Foltz St., is set to become Indiana’s third location for a Safe Haven Baby Box, pending construction of the box in the north wall of the facility. There are two other Safe Haven Baby Box in two northern Indiana counties: LaPorte and Allen.
To date, more than 3,700 babies have been safely received under the Safe Haven Law, more than 40 in the state of Indiana, according to Safe Haven.
Parents and parents-to-be in crisis can contact the Safe Haven Hotline 24/7 anonymously by calling 866-992-2291. You can also visit the Safe Haven Baby Boxes website.
Families interested in becoming foster or adoptive parents should contact their county’s Department of Child Services office or dial the state information line at 888-252-3678. You can also visit the Indiana Child Services adoption website.