Safe Haven Baby Box

This baby box makes it absolutely safe for a mother to leave an unwanted child at a designated safe place. It is heated and the baby would be alone for less than five minutes.

   A proposed amendment to the state’s Safe Haven laws would allow parents to surrender their baby by placing him or her in safe boxes at designated locations, which is a change from the current law that requires parents to surrender children in-person to public safety workers.

    Firefighter and Española Firefighter’s Union President John Wickersham has been the primary advocate for House Bill 18, which is being sponsored by Rep. Ambrose Castellano, D-San Miguel, Santa Fe, and Rep. Roger Montoya, D-Rio Arriba, and has also been endorsed by the state firefighter’s union.

    “This is a safe, judgment-free way to hand over a baby, so the mother doesn’t feel blamed, or as bad,” Wickersham said.

    Currently only one company produces the boxes, a non-profit organization called Safe Haven Baby Boxes of Woodburn, Indiana. The boxes cost about $10,000 and are temperature-controlled with cameras and an alarm that notifies dispatch when a baby has been put inside. The box is also attached to the building, whether it’s a fire department, hospital or police station. The law will require that the building be staffed 24/7, and in Española the first would be installed at the fire station.

    “The baby is in there for no longer than five minutes,” Wickersham said.

    The bill will not require any cities to install the boxes, but just allows for that possibility. Wickersham has reached out to departments across the state through the state firefighter’s union and says that many different municipalities are in support of the bill. He also said there weren’t a lot of children being surrendered in Española but hopes that this will make it easier for mothers who think that is the best choice.

    “I was actually adopted and if I could, I would find my birth parents and tell them, you know, thank you, you did the right thing,” Wickersham said. “There are options and putting your kid up for adoption is one of them.”

    For bill sponsor Castellano, he feels similarly about offering infant New Mexicans a new chance at life.

    “I’m supporting this bill because this gives people, our infants, a safe place to at least keep on living,” he said. “It’s under conditions that nobody can get prosecuted criminally for the abandonment or the abuse of a child, as long as they’re left in these Safe Haven boxes.”

    The bill has been recommended to the Health and Human Services Committee but a date to consider it has not been set.

    “As a freshman legislator, this is really one of the first bills that I want to introduce and be in committee with,” Castellano said. And I hope it goes through, I hope people see the bill for what it is and what the intent of the bill is.”

    Española Mayor Javier Sanchez is also in support of the bill.

    “We’ve sort of been up there advocating for it, marketing for it and, and trying to get as much support for it in our community,” Sanchez said. “John Wickersham is a proud firefighter who sees the ins and outs of some of the problems that we have in our city, but most importantly, he sees the opportunity out of it. If he feels like he wants to champion that opportunity for folks, I’m going to support him 100 percent.”

(2) comments

HiDawn

My name is Dawn Geras, President of the Illinois Save Abandoned Babies Foundation and a founding board member of the National Safe Haven Alliance. Over the years I have assisted many states and organizations with passing and improving their safe haven laws. Please understand that I am passionate about wanting to do all that I can to save each and every baby from illegal abandonment and at first blush coming out against Boxes may not seem to make sense.

After you think through this box idea, I believe that you will agree and help to stop this idea.

1) Boxes remove the chance for a mother to be offered medical care and supportive services. About 25% of parents who come to a Safe Haven, initially planning to use the Safe Haven Law, when given the opportunity to talk about options, chose to either made an adoption or parenting plan.

2) Boxes strip away any chance of personal contact which means the parent is completely alone, contributing to her being frightened. She does not have the comfort of placing her baby into the arms of anyone. Instead, the idea that what she is doing is ‘bad’ and something that she should feel ashamed about is reinforced.

3) Boxes will add confusion as to where and what is considered a Safe Haven site. There are so many bad possible out comes to this. For example, a mother comes to a hospital, looking for a Box but that hospital doesn’t have one. She becomes frustrated, confused, and leaves the baby alone, abandoned. Will the baby survive? The mother is bleeding, in need of medical help that she does not get. How will people feel when she is found having bled to death?

4) Many women are looking for a safe delivery of their baby in a hospital. Boxes will confuse hopes for a safe delivery by suggesting that her only option is to leave the baby in a Box.

5) The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has called for a ban on the boxes in Europe and has urged countries to provide family planning and other support to address the root causes of abandonments, according to spokeswoman Elizabeth Throssell.

6) Another concern came from the Nassau County Police Depart. and New York City Police Depart. Bureau of Special (Homeland Security). Even before 911, the departments had grave concerns about pipe bombs being placed inside one of them by terrorists and causing catastrophic injuries to doctors, hospital stuff and first responders. There have been attacks in various cities, most recently in Washington, DC. If a terrorist makes an attack on a hospital, or police/fire station, key emergency personal will be killed or critically wounded. Boxes will be added to the list of high risk locations as a “soft target” and greatly increase liability insurance.

7) Cost! Each box costs some $20,000 to build and install, not $10,000. Then there is the continued cost of monthly maintenance and yearly inspections.

8) There have been some half a dozen times when twins have been relinquished under the Baby Safe Haven law. Does a box safely accommodate 30 day old twins?

Safe haven programs across the country have saved over 4,000 infants since its conception in 1999. The numbers increase each year as more people learn about the law. What is needed is increased awareness of the laws that exist not Boxes.

WakeUP 911

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Did the article mention statistics on how many times the Safe Harbor law has been used Statewide by county? Does Rio Arriba rank in the top for child abandonment that they would need these boxes ?

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