Third Indiana baby box to be in South Bend

Baby box in Woodburn

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WANE) – Indiana’s third baby box will be installed in South Bend at the The Life Center. The center, which is located a few blocks from Notre Dame’s campus, is run by Apostolate of Divine Mercy. The organization behind the boxes, Safe Haven Baby Boxes, held a press conference Wednesday afternoon to officially make the announcement of the new location.

There are currently two baby boxes installed in the state; one is in the Woodburn fire station near Fort Wayne and the other is in Michigan City. The boxes are intended to be a way for a person to surrender an unwanted infant completely anonymously.

The Department of Child Services (DCS) and the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) have been very outspoken on their disapproval of the boxes and in several letters over the past months have called for future installations to be halted.

Monica Kelsey, the founder of Safe Haven Baby Boxes, said the South Bend unit is almost finished with production and should be installed by the end of July. Two more boxes are then expected to be installed in Indianapolis soon after, Kelsey said.

In a news release, Safe Haven Baby Boxes said the devices are being installed in churches, charities or emergency service providers.

Indiana’s Safe Haven Law allows someone to give an unharmed infant up to 30 days old to an emergency medical services provider without giving their name or facing prosecution for abandonment. Indiana code defines an “emergency medical services provider” as a firefighter, law enforcement officer, paramedic, emergency medical technician, physician or nurse.

The state, while questioning the safety of baby boxes, also has said someone who puts a baby in a baby box would not be covered by the Safe Haven Law because it requires a person-to-person hand-off. DCS’s director said using the baby box could trigger an abandonment investigation.

An attorney for Safe Haven Baby Boxes said in a letter back to the state that the boxes are in-line with the law because the medical provider “takes custody” of the baby from the box and no person-to-person exchange is mandated.

15 Finds Out posed those differing opinions to two legal experts who said the law isn’t clear enough to require or not require an in-person interaction.

Kelsey contends the boxes are needed because some women are reluctant to show their faces when surrendering their child.

15 Finds Out requested comment from DCS and ISDH Wednesday, but no one was available. A DCS spokesperson did say, “our position has not changed, as we contend this device is not in compliance with Indiana’s Safe Haven Law.”

In 15 Finds Out’s first investigation into how the baby boxes are safety-tested, Kelsey and her attorney said the manufacturer did safety tests on them and that they are now also having an independent company safety test the boxes, but they refused to release any information about that company or how the baby boxes are being tested.

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