Ind. communities work to fund more Safe Haven baby boxes

Lafayette and New Albany plan to install the boxes after a newborn was safely surrendered at another Indiana station earlier this month


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Brooke McAfee
The Evening News and the Tribune, Jeffersonville, Ind.

FLOYD COUNTY, Ind. — Several local efforts are underway to bring Safe Haven Baby Boxes to Floyd County.

Lafayette Township Fire Protection District is launching a fundraising effort to bring one of the baby boxes to the department's fire station on Scottsville Road in Floyds Knobs.

This photo shows a prototype Safe Haven baby box outside a fire station in Woodburn, Ind. in 2015. More Indiana communities are working to fund the installation of baby boxes after a newborn was safely surrendered at a fire station in Clarksville earlier this month.
This photo shows a prototype Safe Haven baby box outside a fire station in Woodburn, Ind. in 2015. More Indiana communities are working to fund the installation of baby boxes after a newborn was safely surrendered at a fire station in Clarksville earlier this month. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Josh Turner, a member of New Albany City Council, also is leading an effort to install one of the boxes in the community. He is preparing to introduce an ordinance to the council that would appropriate money from the riverboat fund for the purchase and installation of a box in the city.

The Safe Haven Baby Boxes allow a parent to safely and anonymously surrender an infant at a fire station or hospital.

The secure boxes lock from the outside after a baby is placed in the box and have a silent alarm system to notify firefighters.

Infants surrendered under Indiana's Safe Haven law will be released from the hospital and placed into the custody of the Department of Child Services. They will be placed with an adoptive family within 30 to 45 days.

Floyd County does not now have a Safe Haven Baby Box, but one was made available to the public in October at Clarksville's Fire Station #1 on Stansifer Avenue.

In early May, a newborn girl was safely surrendered at the Clarksville box.

Sgt. Ryan Houchen with Lafayette Fire said the department began its efforts in 2019, and the plans for a baby box in Floyds Knobs have been approved by the Safe Haven Baby Boxes organization.

The department is now beginning a fundraiser with the goal of raising the $15,000 needed to install the box.

"There are people out there who need help and are overwhelmed, and [surrendering a child] is not an easy thing for anyone to do," Houchen said.

Houchen said this effort is "near and dear" to members of the fire department. He has a family member who is adopted, and several Lafayette firefighters are adopted.

"That's one of those things that drives our passion — that these people were given a chance at adoption and to lead great lives," he said.

Lafayette Fire will not handle the money from the fundraiser, Houchen said, but it will go directly toward the Safe Haven Baby Box organization, which will be responsible for maintenance of the boxes.

Turner is planning to introduce the Safe Haven Baby Box ordinance to the New Albany City Council at the May 20 meeting for a first and second reading.

"I think this is the perfect opportunity to bring something very good to the community," he said. "It's a chance to save a baby's life and give a baby a new chance at life."

If approved, the ordinance would appropriate $15,000 for the initial cost of equipment and the installation. Turner emphasized that the money would come from the riverboat fund, not tax dollars.

The box would be placed with the New Albany Fire Department at one of its fire stations.

"At this moment in time, I'm very confident the entire council could be on board with this," he said. "I don't see how this could not pass."

Turner said he has been in contact with the Safe Haven Baby Boxes nonprofit, which advised him in drafting the ordinance.

He said the ordinance has received an endorsement from the New Albany firefighters union.

"I just want people to know — especially mothers that have to make this very tough decision — that they have an option out there," Turner said. "They can remain anonymous without fear of repercussions, and New Albany cares about babies and the future."

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(c)2021 The Evening News and The Tribune (Jeffersonville, Ind.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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