Newborn Florida baby is left in child 'safe haven box'

Newborn baby is left in Florida ‘safe haven box’ for first time since it was installed over two years ago – as founders say ‘we knew it was just a matter of when’

  • A newborn baby was left in a ‘safe haven baby box’ in Ocala, Florida
  • The box is designed to allow parents to anonymously surrender their babies
  • To maintain the privacy of the parent, drop-off details have been withheld
  • Some 134 of the controversial boxes have been installed in states around the US
  • All 50 states have laws allowing mothers to forfeit babies and not face charges 

A newborn baby was left in the only ‘safe haven baby box’ in Florida – the first time it has been used since it was installed in November 2020.

The box, inset into the wall of a fire station in Ocala, is one of 134 Safe Haven boxes in the US that enable a parent to anonymously hand over unwanted babies. They have been used 23 times since the first was launched in November 2017.

Safe Haven Baby Boxes’ Founder and CEO, Monica Kelsey, thanked the person who used the box, but would not reveal the gender of the child or the time and date of the drop-off to preserve their anonymity.

‘When we launched this box in Florida, I knew it wasn’t going to be an if – it was going to be a matter of when,’ Kelsey told NPR. ‘This does not come as a surprise.’

A newborn baby was deposited in a ‘baby box’ in Ocala, Florida. It is the only box in the state that allows parents to anonymously hand over an unwanted newborn

Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn (left) and Safe Haven Baby Boxes’ Founder and CEO, Monica Kelsey (right)

All states in the US have ‘safe haven’ laws that allow mothers to surrender their babies to authorities without fear of criminal charges. More than ten states have introduced laws in recent years that permit the installation of baby boxes.

However, they have attracted controversy. Last August the New York Times published a story that was critical of the baby box, calling it ‘a concept dating back to medieval Europe.’

It also described them as being a ‘conservative’ initiative designed to oppose abortion and to place greater emphasis on adoption instead. 

Kelsey said on Thursday: ‘We want to address the parent who legally surrendered this infant, and right now I’m going to talk directly to her or him.

‘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.’

The ‘baby box’ in which the unidentified newborn baby was deposited is attached the Ocala fire station in Florida

Kelsey found inspiration to start the organization came after she saw a box in South Africa, according to her website. She then founded the organization in her native state of Indiana.

‘The process, the procedure worked,’ said Ocala Fire Chief Clint Welborn.

The Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn also took the time during a press conference to encourage other cities to integrate the boxes into their hospitals or fire stations. 

‘I’d recommend to mayors and city council people across the state of Florida to do it on your own, just like we did,’ he said.

Kelsey (pictured) found inspiration to start the organization came after she saw a box in South Africa

When surrendering their baby a parent opens the metal door to reveal a temperature and air controlled environment. As soon as they do an alarm goes off alerting authorities, but it is silent so as to not startle the parent.

Once the baby is placed inside and the door is closed it automatically locks, preventing the parent from reopening it. The child can then be recovered from the inside the hospital or fire station.

According to Kelsey the average amount of time a child is inside the box is less than two minutes. A Safe Haven box costs $10,000 and is leased for $200 a month. 

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