Saving Babies with Laws and Boxes

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    This Safe Haven Baby Box is at a fire station in Bowling Green, Kentucky. A parent surrendered a baby there for the first time in February. (Grace Ramey/Daily News via AP)
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    Monica Kelsey poses with a prototype of a baby box. She founded Safe Haven Baby Boxes, Inc. (AP/Michael Conroy)
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    Larry and Jennifer Mergentheimer sit with their daughter, Rebecca, in Levittown, New York. The Mergentheimers adopted Rebecca through a safe haven program. (AP/Frank Eltman)
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    Some birth parents need help to care for their babies. The Becker family became a volunteer foster family with Safe Families. They agreed to help care for baby Autumn. (AP/M. Spencer Green)
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Imagine being in such despair that you felt you had to give a baby away. Sadly—and for a variety of complex reasons—some new parents can feel that way. Now imagine being someone who labors to give these tiny image-bearers a warm welcome into God’s world!

Every year, desperate parents in the United States tragically abandon babies. Not all use channels that give those infants a safe transition to a new home. Most hope someone will discover their little ones before it’s too late. Many may not know about “safe haven” laws. These laws allow parents to surrender infants at certain locations without legal trouble.

Monica Kelsey says some mothers fear face-to-face surrenders. So she founded Safe Haven Baby Boxes. It provides boxes that mount into an outside wall of a place providing 24-hour help, such as a fire station or hospital. Once a baby is in the box, the outer door locks. An inner door lets staff retrieve the child. No one sees the person who drops the baby there.

Kelsey’s boxes are intended to make drop-offs safe for infants and provide for the anonymous aspect of safe haven laws.

Today, there are more than 130 baby boxes in nine states.

In February, a Kentucky baby box received its first infant. Fire department staff assisted the baby in under 90 seconds. Kelsey says, “This child was legally, safely, anonymously, and lovingly placed” in the box.

But baby boxes have critics who call them expensive and even harmful. They say the boxes shouldn’t replace personal help for parents.

Chris Hicks is a Christian. When his local fire station installed a baby box, he started investigating.

Hicks doesn’t support baby boxes. He says signs on Safe Haven Baby Boxes don’t help mothers understand adoption and custody options, though he admits the signs mention emergency personnel and list a crisis hotline number.

But Hicks believes a mother could later feel “exploited.” He calls the concept “just morally and ethically wrong to me.”

Kelsey says, “We only want these boxes used if a mother in crisis doesn’t have any other options.”

Nurse Dawn Geras believes a face-to-face transfer is better too. She says it’s important “for the mom to know that the baby wasn’t just placed in a cold, sterile box, but actually into the loving arms of somebody.” She continues, “And for that somebody to say, ‘Thank you. We know it took courage to come in here. You did the right thing. The baby will be OK and loved.’”

See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father. — Matthew 18:10

Why? Life in a fallen world is full of complex problems, yet every human has great worth given by a loving Father. Assisting the smallest and weakest among us is Christlike.