WOODBURN, Ind. (WANE) – After saying they won’t stop making baby boxes available to women who want to surrender their
newborn under Indiana’s Safe Haven law when the Department of Child Services requested them to be shut down, the woman behind the boxes is now going a step further.
Monica Kelsey announced Thursday that she’s setting up a fund for the legal defense of a woman who uses a baby box if the state pursues abandonment charges against her.
In a letter sent to Kelsey’s attorney on June 3, DCS Director Mary Beth Bonaventura said baby boxes are “not an authorized way to protect abandoned infants under current Indiana law.”
Bonaventura said Indiana’s Safe Haven law requires a person abandoning an infant to give the child to an actual person and that putting the baby in a baby box does not comply with that law. In that letter and another letter sent in April, Bonaventura said if a person puts a baby in a baby box, DCS would treat it as an abandoned child case and possibly pursue charges.
Kelsey’s attorney told 15 Finds Out on June 10 that the boxes are not illegal and are covered by the Safe Haven law because the law just says the provider will “take custody of the child.” Bopp argued when a baby is left in a baby box, the emergency personnel then take custody of the child from the box.
“When it comes to mothers-in-crisis and their infants, the goals of Safe Haven Baby Boxes and DCS are the same. I’m not sure why Mary Beth Bonaventura is backing these mothers-in-crisis into a corner. The mission of Safe Haven Baby Boxes is to save abandoned babies and help every mother who needs assistance,” Kelsey said in a statement sent to the media.
Kelsey added that the Safe Haven Baby Box hotline has had more than 700 calls from women across the country and they have resulted in pregnancy center and adoption referrals and four safe surrenders under Safe Haven laws. Since being installed in April, no babies have actually be surrendered using a baby box.
There are plans to install two more baby boxes in Indiana soon and another one in Ohio is also in the works. At one point Kelsey had planned to have 30 more boxes installed across the state within the next year.
15 Finds Out has been investigating the safety testing of the baby boxes since April: