SYRACUSE — For the first time, a mother has made use of the Safe Haven Baby Box at the Turkey Creek Fire Department in Syracuse.
The surrender marks the third in the state this year.
“We want parents to know that it’s OK to choose this,” said founder of Safe Haven Baby Boxes Monica Kelsey. “That’s why we made it legal.”
A press conference took place at the fire station Friday.
“We should all be thankful that it’s not a funeral we’re attending today,” Kelsey said. “It’s a celebration of a parent who made a good choice.”
Kelsey called the parents of the child “brave,” “heroic,” and “selfless,” having herself been a child abandoned at 2 days old.
“It’s got to be one of the hardest things for a parent to say ‘I want the best for my child and it’s not me,’” Kelsey said.
The newborn was handed to Syracuse firefighter Quinn Hunter during his shift at the Turkey Creek Fire Territory Station 2.
The safe haven law has existed in Indiana since 2001, allowing parents to come to a fire station, police station, or hospital and surrender their 30-day or younger child no questions asked. If no staffers are available, some organizations also have baby boxes where infants can be left. There is also a Safe Haven Baby Box 24/7 hotline with options for parents in need of information and support, especially if they are looking for alternatives to the baby box.
For confidentiality, the sex of the infant and the date of surrender were not provided. Nevertheless, during the meeting, Kelsey offered comments directed at the unnamed mother and any parent who may be struggling.
“I know that people can be cruel,” she said. “Even on social media people can be cruel when they hear a story like this. I want this parent to know that we know your heart. We hear you. This child was not abandoned. … This was legally, lovingly, and safely surrendered under Indiana’s Safe Haven Law, and to the parent, you should be proud of yourself for keeping this child safe.”
Syracuse’s baby box was the 10th to be installed statewide, and the 13th in the country, and Hunter says the department has held many drills since the box was installed in January, although the March event marks the first baby ever dropped off at the location.
Kelsey said the surrender is the third in Indiana this year, and with five babies nationwide surrendered already this year, the numbers are above average. Last year, the total was just eight.
“I think it’s more about the education getting out there,” she said. Within the last week, five newborns across the country have been found abandoned and deceased. “These were locations that don’t have baby boxes. The boxes, they bring a conversation that’s never been done before.”
Babies that are surrendered in Indiana go into the foster system to be adopted, being in foster care for about 30 days before they join their forever families. A bill in the statehouse could allow the children to go to adoptive parents immediately, rather than remaining in DCS custody for the 30-day waiting period.
“These parents love these kids,” Kelsey said. “They just want something more for them. We should all respect the choice of a parent who is making a decision like this. It is difficult to choose something like this.”
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