COOLSPRING TOWNSHIP, Ind. (WOOD) — A package of bills making its way through the Michigan Legislature would allow for baby boxes at places like fire departments where parents could give up newborns.
Under Michigan’s Safe Delivery of Newborns Law, which went into effect in 2000, parents can already legally surrender babies to emergency personnel like police, firefighters or hospital workers within 72 hours of the child’s birth. An amendment to that law passed by the state House of Representatives earlier this month would increase that time to 30 days.
The bills OK’d by the House also set regulations for the installation and use of baby boxes.
A couple such devices are already in use in Indiana. One of them is at the Coolspring Township Fire Department near Michigan City, where two babies have been dropped off since it was installed more than two years ago.
“We don’t judge, we don’t want to know anything about it. It’s a tool to us to help save lives,” Coolspring Township Assistant Fire Chief Warren Smith told 24 Hour News 8. “This is a great alternative for the parents instead of throwing them in the fence row, throwing them in the dumpster.”
The boxes are connected to a silent alarm system. When its 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.
Firefighters say their response time is quick.
“I was probably here within 30 seconds after getting the page,” said Lt. Chuck Kohler, who rushed to the box when a baby was left there in April.
“When I got to this door where the baby box is, as soon as I went to gain access, I could hear the baby crying,” he continued. “Took the baby out, and as soon as I picked it up, it stopped crying. It was very content, well taken care of. I sat the baby down on the chair and made sure medically everything was OK.”
Babies left in a box are sent to the hospital to be monitored for 72 hours. If there is no concern of abuse and therefore no investigation launched, the baby becomes eligible for the adoption process.
Monica Kelsey, the CEO of Safe Haven Baby Boxes, which provided the box in Coolspring Township, wondered “why not” introduce them in Michigan.
“You guys are still having abandonments in your state and the safe haven law has been around for 18 years. Last year alone, the state had four abandonments,” she said.
She said Indiana hasn’t had an abandonment since adding the boxes. She said they are meant to be used as a last resort and help save lives.
“If we could not hear the stories watching the news where there are babies thrown in dumpsters or found in fence rows and never hear that again, it would be a great day,” Smith said.
After being passed by the House, the Michigan bills were sent along to the Senate Families, Seniors and Human Services Committee for consideration.