The Grapevine

Safe Haven For Abandoned Babies: Baby Boxes To Allow Parents To Safely Give Up Newborns In Indiana

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Baby boxes are hoped to save the lives of abandoned infants in Indiana. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Indiana is on its way to becoming the first U.S. state to allow the use of ‘baby boxes’ in an attempt to prevent the dangerous abandonment of infants. Although the boxes are widely used around in the world in parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa, critics believe that installing the boxes in America is the wrong way to address this tragic problem.

In a trashcan. On a laundromat floor. Under a subway seat. Abandoned babies are often found in the most obscure places and although there are no firm statistics of how many American babies are abandoned each year, it’s clear that the issue is a national tragedy. Safe haven laws do exist in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, allowing parents a way to surrender newborns at hospitals, police stations, and churches without fear of prosecution, but Fox News reported that since 1999 more than 1,400 children were still found illegally abandoned, and the majority of these infants died.

The baby boxes would serve as an option for parents unable to keep their child yet are yet unsure of how find someone who can. The metal baby boxes are actually incubators and would be placed at places such as hospitals and firehouses, The Chicago Tribune reported. Unlike the current safe haven practices, which could possibly leave abandoned children on doorsteps hidden away in boxes for hours before the staff became aware of their presence, the new baby boxes have a button which would both activate a heater and alert others of the child’s presence. Literature found around the box informs the parents of who to contact if they later decide to keep the child and how long they have to legally reclaim custody.

The practice of having a safe haven for children whose parents could no longer take care of them is an age old practice which can be traced all the way back to medieval times. Many in Indiana view the baby box bill as a natural progression of the “safe haven” laws which already exists.

“We're finding babies abandoned in woods, creeks, dumpsters. Those are the babies we are targeting with these boxes," Monica Kelsey, president of the group Safe Haven Baby Boxes said, as reported by Sky News.

To others, the bill would open a can of worms and allow parents to give away their children without having a second thought. Also, the baby boxes fail to address the underlying problem which causes so many families to give up their infants: poverty.

Dawn Geras, president of the Save the Abandoned Babies Foundation in Chicago explained to The Chicago Tribune that the boxes robs parents of the opportunity to speak with a licensed professional about the options they have in terms of support to raise their child.

“There's a lot of things that need to be done to improve safe haven laws throughout the country, but that's not one of them," Geras explained to The Chicago Tribune.

The United Nations backs Geras’ way of thinking, openly speaking out against the use of similar baby boxes in other parts of the world. The organization has urged countries to use the replace the boxes with better family planning options, but so far the boxes’ numbers seem to be growing rather than diminishing. 

Correction: A previous version of this story mistakenly wrote that this practice is being considered in the state of Illinois. It has now been ameded to read Indiana.

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