The Van Wert County Courthouse

Wednesday, May. 22, 2024

VW Health installs Safe Haven Baby Box

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

Snow swirls as Pastor Lance Hostetler of Grace Bible Church (second from left) says a prayer to dedicate a Safe Haven Baby Box installed at Van Wert Health. Looking on are (from the left) Monica Kelsey of Safe Haven Baby Boxes, Teri Grothaus, and VW Health President/CEO Jim Pope. photos by Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

Monica Kelsey, an Indiana first responder who was abandoned as a baby by her biological mother and now promotes Safe Haven Baby Boxes, joined with Van Wert Health President/CEO Jim Pope to in announcing the installation of a baby box at the local hospital.

The baby boxes provide an anonymous alternative to leaving a baby in a dumpster or trash can — something that occurs multiple times across the country and usually leads to the death of the infant.

“It’s about allowing a parent to have alternatives that include life,” Pope said, citing the example of a baby that was abandoned in a box outside the Delphos Fire Station a couple of years ago. “The whole concept behind the Safe Haven Baby Box is so that parents don’t have to do that.”

The Van Wert Health box is located adjacent to the emergency room area on the south exterior wall of the hospital. Pope said he originally had another location in mind, but the addition of a major expansion would have negatively affected that site.

Monica Kelsey speaks at the dedication of a new Safe Haven Baby Box at Van Wert Health.

On the outside is signage explaining what parents should do to place a baby in the box. Once the door is opened, a silent alarm is sent to a company that monitors the boxes. Once a baby has been placed in the hospital bassinet located inside the box, the door automatically locks when shut and a second alarm and flashing light are activated at the hospital. 

Pope said it would typically take approximately 30 seconds for hospital staff to then retrieve the child, although first responders at Van Wert Fire Department are also notified if hospital staff are not available for some reason, such as a large-scale emergency.

Kelsey said cost of the baby box is approximately $10,000, which is paid through private donations.

The baby boxes have come about following passage of Safe Haven laws allowing parents an alternative to dumping a newborn in a trash can or other site where they would likely die. It also avoids criminal charges that would likely occur from the death of the baby, while providing anonymity to parents.

Kelsey noted that the first Safe Haven Baby Box was installed in 2016 in Woodburn, Indiana, with boxes now located at Hicksville Community Memorial Hospital and Van Wert Health in Ohio, and the Coolspring Township Fire Department, Decatur Township Fire Department, Chesterton Fire Department, and North Vernon Fire Department in Indiana.

Before the baby boxes are put into service, they’re tested for a month to make sure they work properly.

The interior of the Safe Haven Baby Box is shown a Van Wert Health.

Kelsey said that the Indiana boxes have been used for three babies, while the nationwide organization accounted for 43 babies being dropped off last year.

“Twenty-eight women from the 419 area code got help last year by Safe Haven Baby Boxes, and we will continue to do this work for years to come,” she added. “The box represents ‘no shame, no blame, and no names’; we don’t judge these women who come here, we thank these women for choosing this alternative option. …”

Kelsey called the baby boxes the “final option” for a parent before the decision to dump a baby in a trash can or other location.

“Our focus isn’t these boxes; the box is the draw,” she noted. “People want the anonymity, and they are calling us wanting to know where the closest baby box is, and we’re talking them into something better. The box is only a good option if it is the last option this mom has left.”

Mothers of newborns who want help can call the Safe Haven hotline at 866.99BABY1, Kelsey said.

Pope, who said local staff person Teri Grothaus first approached him about installing the baby box, said he feels the boxes are part of the service a local hospital offers its community, as well as a part of Van Wert Health’s mission to be the best community hospital.

“Being the best community hospital doesn’t mean that you do everything, but what it does mean is that you want to be the first place that people think of when they need care.”

POSTED: 01/29/19 at 8:11 am. FILED UNDER: News