Oklahoma Watches and Warnings

New ‘drop-off boxes’ designed to save unwanted babies while parents remain anonymous

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The Safe Haven Baby Box is a brand new high-tech container that gives desperate parents a new way to deliver an unwanted baby without ever having to meet authorities face-to-face, as they do now when handing over a newborn at a hospital, police, or fire station.

Here's how it works:  the box is installed along an exterior wall of a safe haven; parents open the door, place their newborn inside the padded box; once they close the door, it automatically locks and alerts authorities on the other side with an alarm.

Each Safe Haven Baby Box is temperature-controlled, with a medical-warming device that keeps each box between 95 degrees and 100 degrees all year.

Its creator, Monica Kelsey, was abandoned as a newborn on April 19th, 1973.

Kelsey now serves as a firefighter with the Woodburn Volunteer Fire Department in Indiana, where one of only two Safe Haven Baby Boxes in the entire nation was just installed - on her birthday.

The boxes are designed to work in conjunction with each state's current Safe Haven Law.

The Safe Haven Law is different from state-to-state, but it always allows parents to deliver an unwanted, unharmed baby to certain safe havens, such as a fire station, police station, or hospital, no questions asked, as long as it's within that state's allowable time frame.

Despite the law, many scared parents may be too intimidated to have to talk to someone when handing over their babies.

With the new baby boxes, no words are ever exchanged.

For the past 15 years, Kelsey says the Safe Haven law has saved more than 3,100 babies nationwide.

However, in that same time frame, more than 1,400 babies have been found abandoned, many left on doorsteps to brave the elements alone until found, or, even worse, left to die in dumpsters, toilets, and so on.

Kelsey has been working for years to create several versions of the baby containers, and to have the final product approved by her state legislature.

No state or federal funding is ever used. The $1,500 boxes are voluntary and funded by donations only.

The Knights of Columbus of Indiana is paying for the first 100 baby boxes to be placed around safe havens across Indiana.

Other states are also looking into adding the same boxes to their safe havens with the help of Safe Haven Baby Boxes.

Development Director Pam Stenzel tells NewsChannel 4, "We developed the box with eight different revisions before we approved the final version. We will help those states and give them all of our information to get started so they don't have to reinvent the wheel."

Each state would have to go through their state legislature to have the non-profit boxes approved.

Fire stations or other safe havens would then cut a hole in an exterior wall to install the baby box.

Arizona has a similar "baby drawer" where parents can place unwanted newborns at a hospital, but the Safe Haven Baby Boxes are the first of their kind for all safe haven locations.

"I know when the day comes and the first baby is placed in one of the boxes that The Knights donated, my birth mother is going to be smiling down from Heaven, knowing that the child she abandoned at a hospital in 1973 is now saving abandoned babies so they, too, can be loved and adopted," Kelsey said on her YouTube video.

Anyone can sponsor a box, but all donations help. "Even a donation of $25 can get literature into a high school, telling teens where they can safely drop off their baby," Stenzel said.

Stenzel is also a psychologist who answers calls to their 1-866-99BABY1 hotline for anyone with questions about anonymously dropping off a newborn.

For more information, contact Safe Haven Baby Boxes on their website.

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