Parents Thanked for Bravery After 1st Baby Surrendered Using Florida's Safe Haven Baby Box

Officials in Ocala, Florida, have announced that a baby was surrendered in the state's only Safe Haven Baby Box earlier this month. Fire Chief Clint Welborn addressed the media in a news conference on January 5, confirming that an infant had been surrendered at Ocala Fire Rescue Station 1.
This marks the first time since the newborn surrender box was installed in 2020 that it has been used. The infant was safely recovered from the Safe Haven Baby Box and taken to a hospital for treatment. Officials will place the baby with a family for adoption.

Ocala Fire Rescue installed the Safe Haven Baby Box in 2020.

Welborn explained that a baby was left in a restroom in 2017 outside of Ocala around the same time that plans for a new Ocala fire station were in the works. That infant was the impetus for officials to install a Safe Haven Baby Box in the new station. The facility was completed in 2020, fully equipped for a newborn surrender.

First Newborn Surrendered at Ocala Fire Rescue’s Safe Haven Baby Box (OCALA, FL.) Jan. 5, 2023 – In December 2020,...

Posted by Ocala Fire Rescue on Thursday, January 5, 2023

A parent can surrender their baby without penalty up to a week after its birth.

According to a press release from Ocala Fire Rescue, a Safe Haven Baby Box "legally permits a mother in crisis to safely, securely, and anonymously surrender a newborn who cannot be cared for."

The Safe Haven Baby Boxes website states that a parent should use the Safe Haven Baby Box as a last resort option.

Parents are encouraged to do a face-to-face surrender, but if that is not feasible, the Safe Haven Baby Box is safe and secure. Safe Haven Baby Boxes offers resources after surrendering an infant for those in need.

"Should the mother contact Safe Haven Baby Boxes after the surrender, she will be provided the same information provided with a face-to-face surrender and given guidance on where to seek help," the website states.

Firefighters are alerted to remove infants from Safe Haven Baby Boxes very quickly.

Safe Haven Baby Boxes founder Monica Kelsey explained during the press conference that when the door to the box locks, an "immediate signal" is sent, and firefighters are notified. She said babies are only in the box for a short time. An "average time for babies in our boxes are right about a minute and a half."

According to Kelsey, "the drawer opens from the outside, and the newborn is placed in a bassinet," Fox 13 reported. "The box has heating and cooling elements and is electronically monitored. Silent alarms activate once a baby is placed inside, and the box calls 911 on its own to notify first responders."

Officials are lauding the parents' decision to surrender their baby.

Ocala officials and Kelsey recognize that the decision to surrender a baby must be heart-wrenching for a parent, and they are grateful to this newborn's parents for making a safe choice for their child.

"The first thing that we want is we want to address the parents who legally surrendered this infant. And right now I'm going to talk directly to her or him," Kelsey said during the news conference. "Thank you. Thank you for keeping your child safe. Thank you for bringing your child to a place that you knew was going to take care of this child. And thank you for doing what you felt was best."

Kelsey created Save Haven Baby Boxes because of her own birth story.

Kelsey learned that her teenage mother surrendered her in 1973. The Safe Haven Baby Boxes website tells Kelsey's mother's story, beginning with a brutal attack and rape that resulted in the teen's pregnancy with Kelsey. She contemplated abortion but ultimately decided to give birth to her baby and abandoned her at a small hospital in Ohio.

After hearing her own birth story and seeing a "baby box" at a church in South Africa, Kelsey was determined to bring the service to the US. There are 134 Safe Haven Baby Boxes installed across 12 states, and 23 babies have been surrendered safely since the boxes were introduced in 2016.

During the news conference, Kelsey sent a message to the baby's parents: "I hope you find peace in knowing that your child is safe, your child is healthy, and your child will be placed with a set of adoptive parents, if it hasn't already."

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