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Baby surrendered at Carmel Fire Station first to be adopted under new law

Hamilton Superior Court 5 Judge David Najjar and the newly adopted baby who was surrendered in August at Carmel Fire Station No. 345. (Provided Photo/The Reporter)

CARMEL, Ind. (The REPORTER) — An infant surrendered in a Safe Haven Box at a Carmel fire station in August has been adopted by her forever family. She is believed to be the first baby adopted through a new amendment to Indiana’s Safe Haven Law (I.C. 31-34-2.5, sections 1-6) that allows surrendered newborns to be placed directly with a licensed child placing agency (LCPA) instead of the Department of Child Services. The law went into effect on July 1. The baby was surrendered on Aug. 7.

“The law prevents a child from languishing in the foster care system, instead placing them with an adoptive family within hours,” said Meg Sterchi, executive director of Adoptions of Indiana. “Adoptions are finalized in three months, instead of 18 months to three years.”

There are 110 Safe Haven baby boxes in Indiana that allow mothers in crisis to surrender their newborn safely, securely, and anonymously if they are unable to care for it. The boxes are installed in exterior walls of fire stations and hospitals. Four babies have been surrendered at Carmel Fire Station No. 345 – the most for any baby box in the country.

Carmel Fire Chief David Haboush lobbied state lawmakers for the amendment in an effort to ensure the infants are placed with an adopted family sooner.

“We make a point of staying with the babies in the hospital until their family can be with them,” Chief Haboush said. “Firefighters exist to take care of human life, so this falls right into our wheelhouse. That is exactly what this law allows us to do.”

Hamilton Superior Court 5 Judge David Najjar granted the baby’s adoption on National Adoption Day, Friday, Nov. 17.

“I could not be more thrilled,” Judge Najjar said at the hearing. “A lot of adoption cases will come through this courthouse today, but none like this one. I am honored to be part of this, and I am honored to say I am granting this adoption.”

“Babies are sensory beings,” Sterchi added. “They learn everything from what they see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. This change to the Safe Haven law allows an infant to establish security and stability as soon as possible by creating a consistent sensory experience as soon as possible.”

Anyone in need of a baby box or who wants to speak to a licensed counselor can call the National Safe Haven crisis hotline at 1-866-99BABY1.