NORTHWEST ARKANSAS, Ark. (KFTA) — Safe haven baby boxes for mothers to leave unwanted babies may be coming to Northwest Arkansas.
The Safe Haven Act of 2001 allows parents to leave their child at a hospital emergency room or law enforcement agency in the first 30 days of the baby’s life without risking prosecution.
An amendment adds fire stations and the use of a baby box to the law.
The first box in the state is in Benton.
First responders are the only ones able to unlock the box and remove the baby.
“They are alarmed to dispatch and they are climate-controlled. They are set to be able to be open from the outside one time, then they lock before they reset,” says Thomas Good, Fayetteville Fire Department Assistant Chief.
As long as the child shows no signs of intentional abuse, no name or other information is required.
DHS then takes custody of the child to place it in a foster or adoptive homes.
The purpose being to prevent babies from being hurt or killed by unsafe abandonment.
Monica Kelsey, safe haven baby box founder, says she looks at success of how many babies were not found in dumpsters.
“I’m one of the lucky ones that survived so I want to make it as easy as possible for moms to choose a good option,” Kelsey said. “We have successfully had 59 women come through our program, and that is through safe surrenders where a woman surrendered her child in the safe haven law. Three of those babies have been in boxes. Two of those babies were at locations that had boxes, that the woman was willing to walk in the door and hand the child to a firefighter there.”
Fayetteville, Rogers, and Springdale police departments, as well as the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, say they have not had any babies dropped off in at least the past five years.
A request from DHS regarding the number of safe haven incidents was not immediately returned.
“We have not discussed it yet. I briefly looked into it. The cost is significant, the maintenance,” Good said.
State Senator Cecile Bledsoe sponsored the amended version of the Safe Haven Act and says she’s reaching out to northwest Arkansas fire departments about the boxes.
Kelsey hopes that Benton will lead the rest of the state.
“This is another tool that we can use to save the life of a child,” she said.