Wisconsin legislature passes new safe haven ‘baby box’ legislation
The Wisconsin State Legislature passed a bill this week that could create the installation of newborn infant safety devices, or baby boxes, at specific locations that could allow a parent to relinquish a child under the age of 72 hours under the Safe Haven Law.
“There’s an opportunity and option to do it anonymously, ” said Wisconsin State Representative Ellen Schutt (R-Clinton), who co-authored the bill. “A way for them to give up their child and save their life.”
The special device could be installed, for example on the wall of a fire station, police department or hospital.
After a newborn is placed inside, alarms alert first responders or health care staff inside the building to come get the child out.
Rep. Schutt said a baby near her community this summer was found abandoned in a field, which is what led her to co-author legislation to create other options.
Under Wisconsin law, a parent can leave their unharmed newborn infant under 72 hours old with a police officer, 911 emergency medical staff person and hospital staff without fear of legal consequences, according to the state’s Department of Children and Families.
The new bill would allow for there not to be face-to-face interaction since the child could be left in the baby box outside an approved location.
“We’re just allowing her to do it anonymously now with a baby box, like I said for some parents that’s important,” said Monica Kelsey, a former firefighter and founder of the company, Safe Haven Baby Boxes.
The company put up the first baby box in 2016 outside Kelsey’s old firehouse in Indiana.
Since then, more than 180 devices are now set up in 14 states.
“Yesterday morning at 3 a.m. we had a baby surrendered in one of our boxes in Indiana, we never know their story, but we trust they are making the best decision for them,” said Kelsey.
“We’re lucky to be the first baby box in the state of Missouri,” said Chief Brian Hendricks, Mehlville Fire Protection District in St. Louis County. “We saw the need for something like this in our community.”
Already, Chief Hendricks said other fire departments are reaching out asking about the new device outside their firehouse, which he feels gives a mother a different and safe option.
“I’ve been doing a lot of talks with a lot of different fire chiefs across the country, and the state of Missouri, there’s a lot of interest,” Hendricks said.
The Wisconsin legislation is now on Governor Tony Evers’ desk awaiting action.