UPDATE: After our story aired, the Department of Child Services confirmed emergency blood tests would be done to determine the child’s DNA before he was surrendered back to his birth parent.
CARMEL, Ind. — The founder of the Safe Haven Baby Boxes claims the Department of Child Services is giving a surrendered infant back to his parent without doing a DNA test first. DCS said it would never give a child to a person claiming to be the biological parent without confirming that relationship.
“We cannot be just pretty sure that this is the bio parent, their words, not mine,” Monica Kelsey, founder of the Safe Haven Baby Boxes, said in a popular video posted to social media.
Kelsey said she has spoken with a relative of the woman claiming to be the mother of an infant surrendered in a Carmel Safe Haven Baby Box in mid-May. She said the family member says a DNA test has not been done yet the reunification process has started.
Kelsey said the anonymity of these boxes is crucial to this service, and in all cases makes it impossible to figure out who the biological mother is without DNA testing.
“No cameras are around these boxes and so, mother or a father places this child inside this box, there is no way for us to know who that parent is,” Kelsey said.
The baby boxes are located at fire stations and hospitals around the state. Kelsey said once a baby is placed in the box, they are given medical care and then taken to the state’s Department of Child Services.
“If they’re not going to do a DNA test or a drug test, or vet this family, we know has not happened,” Kelsey explained. “We have contact with the family. We know this has not happened yet. I have a problem with that. I have to be this little guy’s voice.”
We investigated these claims, and reached out to DCS. The agency said the safe haven law prevents them from discussing a particular case, but they gave us this statement:
“A social media post has raised questions regarding the steps the Indiana Department of Child Services takes after a baby is surrendered under the Indiana Safe Haven law.
It is common for children to come into DCS care without the identity of one or both parents being immediately known. DCS would never, under any circumstance, send a child home with someone claiming to be their parent without first confirming with certainty that person’s relationship to the child. This may include genetic testing, along with many other steps to ensure safe reunification if it is in the best interest of the child. If an individual comes forward claiming parentage, DCS works hand in hand with the juvenile court to determine whether the child was surrendered with the knowing consent of both parents.
Information regarding Safe Haven surrenders is sealed under Indiana law as part of confidential juvenile records, and, with few statutory exceptions, only parties to the case are privy to those details.”
Indiana law does not address this specific situation. We know it has captured the attention of State Senator Travis Holdman is aware of this situation and is in communication with DCS.