OSHTEMO TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Parents looking to surrender babies will have more options under a bill approved by the Michigan Legislature.
Since Michigan’s Safe Delivery of Newborns Law took effect in 2000, parents have had the legal option to surrender babies to emergency personnel like police, firefighters or hospital workers within 72 hours of the child’s birth.
“Our training is that, obviously, we have no questions about who the adult is who’s turning the child in,” said Mark Barnes, Oshtemo Township Fire Department chief. “Medically, we’re going to ask questions about allergies or food sensitivities or anything that might help the child so that it can have better care when it’s turned over to the hospital.”
But under the new legislation, people can drop off infants in baby boxes that are installed in buildings, like a fire station.
The boxes are connected to a silent alarm system. When the door is opened, 911 is alerted immediately. A second alarm goes off when the baby is placed into the box and a sensor is activated.
“I think it’s a fantastic idea,” said Barnes. “Not every fire station is staffed. And even thought ours are staffed, the guys are on-call, so they may not be in the building at the time. So, I would worry that someone would drop a child off and ring the doorbell and run away.”
Other states like Indiana already have baby boxes, which are meant to save lives.
“The purpose is so that children are not dumped in dumpsters or places where young parents are just scared, (and) don’t know what else to do,” he said. “We want to give them a safe place to turn to.”
The baby box program is voluntary; fire stations are not required to install them.
“We would absolutely take a look at it,” Barnes said.
The legislation is now awaiting Gov. Rick Snyder’s signature.