Baby boxes may violate Indiana law, DCS says do not use them

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The state has told her they’re illegal, but the founder of the Safe Haven Baby Box is fighting back.

Founder of Safe Haven Baby Boxes, Monica Kelsey is pledging to keep baby boxes in Indiana, even build new ones for mothers too afraid of face-to-face contact, when they abandon their newborn.

“We didn’t realize this was going to be such a controversial thing considering we’re saving the lives of children,” she said.

Kelsey never thought her organization would be targeted and told to stop by the state’s Health Department and Department of Child Services.

The boxes are built with a heating and cooling pad and it notifies authorities when the door has been opened. DCS is now claiming if a mother uses the box, she’ll have to be charged with child abandonment. The state’s safe haven law requires a baby be left with an emergency medical provider, either at a fire station, or emergency room.

All too often though, it’s the face to face contact Kelsey said, that forces some to abandon newborns in the worst way, by dumping them and hoping someone may discover them.

“Yes, the safe haven law is working for some women, but it’s not working for all and the only reason we implemented the boxes was as a last resort option,” said Kelsey.

Kelsey said the boxes could be used in the same way as the safe haven law, but just eliminating any person to person interaction.

Kelsey started a defense fund to pay for attorney fees for moms that decide to use the boxes. She’s hoping though, that state officials come around.

“We’ll move forward and continue to move forward because we’re not breaking any state or federal regulations,” she said.

The Indiana Department of Health and the Department of Child Services released a joint statement regarding the baby boxes:

“There is simply no evidence to suggest the use of baby boxes is a safe or prudent way to surrender a child. For this reason, the installation of baby boxes is not a state-led or endorsed endeavor.

However, under Indiana’s Safe Haven law, an infant less than 30-days-old may be surrendered to a person who is an Emergency Medical Services provider(*). This allows medical professionals to administer medical care if the infant has a medical emergency or needs basic medical attention.

For this reason, the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) and the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) are working with community partners, lawmakers, first responders and other state agencies to increase public awareness of Indiana’s existing Safe Haven law, as well as additional legal options for parents that want to relinquish custody of their child for adoption.

Fundamentally, the Indiana Safe Haven law as it currently stands must be followed, because it is the best way to safely surrender an infant anonymously.”

-Mary Beth Bonaventura, Director, Indiana Department of Child Services

-Dr. Jerome Adams, Commissioner, Indiana State Department of Health

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