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Legislators push for ‘baby boxes’ in Indiana

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – Since 1999, more than 2,800 children in the United States have been surrendered safely due to safe haven laws. However, more than 1,400 children have been found illegally abandoned and nearly two third’s of those children died. A state bill is looking to save the lives of abandoned babies.

At about two-feet long, the metal container may look like a typical drop box. But it’s intended to hold some pretty precious cargo.

“So, it allows them to drop the baby off,” Republican State Rep. Don Lehe said.

Lehe said new legislation would allow the use of newborn incubators or “baby boxes” in the state of Indiana. The boxes are made to hold babies as old as 31 days.

Once the infant is placed in the climate controlled box, an alarm lets someone in the facility know the baby is there. From that point, the Department of Child Services is notified and the baby is taken into care.

“I think there would be an opportunity for adoption. Obviously, for this baby and as a community, I think it’s a positive factor for what your community stands for,” Lehe said.

Safe haven laws, already in place in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, give parents a way to surrender their newborns at certain facilities.

Illinois Save the Abandoned Babies Foundation president Dawn Geras said the incubators open up a Pandora’s box of issues.

“The baby boxes removes the opportunity for a mother to be offered medical care and supportive services,” Geras said. “Instead, it’s making her feel that she is doing something wrong, and something bad that she can’t come forward, trust the safe haven law and actually hand her baby over.”

The boxes would be placed at facilities like hospitals, police departments and fire stations. Lehe said although it may seem like a way for someone to abandon their child without exploring other options first, he says it’s an alternative that could save the life of a newborn.

“I think the positives would outweigh that negative,” Lehe expressed.

The number of boxes that would be installed or the cost of the project is not clear at this time. But Geras said the money would be better spent on raising awareness, so that mothers know all available options.

“Take this money, and instead of confusing people, they use it for an awareness campaign,” Geras said. “It’s all about awareness. It’s not about adding baby boxes.”

The bill passed the Indiana House unanimously this week. It now moves to the state Senate for consideration.