CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – A bill to set up “Safe Haven Baby Box” surrender locations is making its way through the West Virginia legislature. If passed, the state would install one in each of West Virginia’s 55 counties.
West Virginia already has a Safe Haven Law that allows children less than 30 days old to be dropped off at hospitals, health facilities, or fire departments that are staffed 24 hours. If the “Baby Box” bill would be passed, children could be dropped off at the same locations, however, it would be anonymously.
“Keep in mind this is a last resort option,” said Monica Kelsey, CEO/Founder of Safe Haven Baby Boxes. “We want a parent to walk in and hand the child to a person if they will, but if they won’t we have to have an alternative in place. Otherwise, we’re going to continue to find dead newborns in dumpsters, trashcans, [and] along highways.”
Kelsey, who was abandoned two hours after birth, said the Safe Haven law needs to be advanced to establish more options for children to be safely surrendered.
“When a parent walks into a hospital or a fire station it’s confidential, it’s not anonymous,” she said. “So, this allows parents who don’t want their identity to be known to do the right thing and still surrender the life of their child.”
She said the baby would be placed inside the “Baby Box,” which would be installed on the wall of the location. There would be no cameras nearby, and the box would be heated, air-conditioned, and padded.
Once the baby is inside, silent alarms would alert those on-site that a baby has been dropped off. The parent would be able to remain anonymous and would not face any criminal penalties.
West Virginia House Delegate Steve Westfall is the lead sponsor on the bill. He said they will cost about $11,000 each, totaling over $600,000. However, he said the cost is worth it.
“I just think it’s a better way to do it, hopefully, it will encourage a parent, a mother or father, to just say we cannot take care of this child. They put them in these boxes and the state will take care of them,” he said.
There are over 130 active “Baby Boxes” across nine states, including Ohio and Kentucky. Since 2016, there have been 24 newborns saved through these boxes. However, that has not stopped people from illegally abandoning their children.
Just in the last two years, Kelsey said two babies were illegally abandoned in West Virginia. She hopes the passing of the “Baby Box” bill will change that.
“If that’s all we save, two babies in the state of West Virginia, with these boxes then isn’t that enough?” she said.
According to Kelsey, West Virginia’s first “Baby Box” will be active in the next 60 days, but if this bill passes, the state would set up one in each county.