Apparently, It’s Legal to Dump Your Newborn Baby in Parts of the US

you can blame, or thank, baby boxes

The responsibility that comes with bringing a newborn into this world is impossible to fully grasp until you actually experience it yourself. Often hailed as one of the most rewarding experiences a person can ever go through, parenting also happens to be one of the most challenging and demanding obstacles life has to offer. From the physical (and mental) demands of pregnancy and childbirth to the emotional upheaval of adapting to life with a newborn, there’s simply no way to fully prepare for the journey of parenthood until you’re actually living it. Unfortunately, some individuals only come to realize that it’s not for them once it’s too late, and these scenarios are anything but rare in our increasingly solitary and individualistic societies. But one initiative, based in the United States, is making sure that babies can receive the love, care, and attention they deserve even in the case where their parents are unable to provide it themselves.

Picture this: you just welcomed the arrival of your new bundle of joy but shortly after realize that emotionally and financially, it’s virtually impossible for you to fulfill your duty as you are expected and required. Rather than wrap your baby up and leave them on the doorstep of a chapel, monastery, or mosque,  there is a newly-launched company called Safe Haven Baby Box offering a last resort solution for parents, especially mothers, who sadly feel unable to care for their offspring. 

Building on the pre-existing safe Haven laws in the United States, which grant the possibility for parents to safely, anonymously, and cost-efficiently surrender their child without fear of prosecution,  these Baby Boxes provide a legal alternative to infant abandonment. The way they work is pretty straightforward: Whatever the day or time, a custodian can make their way to a designated location where the facility is already in place, open a door, deposit the baby, and head back home with a bag of counseling instructions in hand and the tremendous relief in knowing that their infant is in good hands. The safety device, which is typically installed in an exterior wall of a designated fire station or hospital, is equipped with a climate-controlled environment and a safety system that prevents the baby from being pulled out once inside. There is a silent alarm that notifies caretakers of a new arrival so that a medical staff member can retrieve the surrendered newborn from inside and transport them to a nearby hospital for evaluation.

Since their launch in 2016, 142 baby boxes have been set up across the country, referred over 500 women to crisis pregnancy centers, assisted in nine adoption referrals, and have had over 120 legal safe haven surrenders up until now. And, while the safety devices don’t represent any kind of substitute to appropriate parent planning and responsible parenting, in conjunction with the already existing safe haven policies, these baby boxes provide a safety net for infants who may otherwise be abandoned or killed as a result of unsafe conditions and treatment.

The initiative’s founder, Monica Kelsey, who was abandoned herself as a child, revealed that efforts like hers prevent infanticides, although no study seems to have confirmed her claim— but we can only imagine it having that effect given the philanthropic nature of the venture.  

Realistically, the success of the Baby Box program serves as a testament to the strength of community spirit in times of need and especially in addressing pressing social issues. Ensuring that every child has the opportunity to reach their full potential, whether it’s through safe haven laws, adoption, or collective efforts a la Kelsey’s Baby Boxes, working as “we” instead of “I” pulls everyone up from the least to the most vulnerable members of our society, giving us purpose and providing hope in a world that can often feel lonely and overwhelming.

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