MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. (WLS) --Michigan City, Ind., has installed a high tech Safe Haven box at one of their fire stations so mothers can safely abandon their infants anonymously. The idea came from a woman who was, herself, abandoned at birth.
The boxes don't look like much, but some believe they can save lives. On Thursday morning, the Cool Spring Fire Station became the first in northwest Indiana to unveil the Safe Haven Baby Boxes, a tool designed to protect newborns abandoned under the state's Safe Haven Law which allows a parent up to 30 days to give up an unwanted infant anonymously to a hospital, police or fire station - no questions asked.
"Seven babies the past 15 years within a five mile radius of this location were abandoned," says Captain Wes Rogers of Cool Spring Fire Department.
Indiana is the first state in the nation to install the high tech boxes, the brainchild of Monica Kelsey who was herself abandoned shortly after birth. She came up with the idea while visiting a church in South Africa.
The boxes are about the size of a microwave and have three alarms to alert first responders that a baby is inside. They are installed outside a Safe Haven location, like a fire stations, and are rigged to call 911 as soon as the door is opened. Once the baby is inside the door automatically locks so no one else can take the baby. Authorities should arrive within three minutes.
The first incubator was placed earlier this week at the Woodburn Fire Department where Kelsey is a paramedic.
B.J. Mahoney, a Safe Haven advocate whose mother abandoned her in a trash can, supports the effort.
The concept is not new, and neither is the debate about baby boxes. Supporters say they save lives by giving parents a safe and anonymous alternative to abandonment, but some detractors say they make the problem worse.
Critics include Dawn Geras, president of Save the Abandoned Babies Foundation in Chicago.
"If there's a mom out there who's looking to Safe Haven a baby, she's going to go looking for a box and she's not going to find a box," says Geras.
Critics say it would be better to put more effort and resources into promoting and improving Safe Haven laws across the country. A charitable organization in Indiana has agreed to finance the installation of the first 100 baby boxes. There are also plans to place baby boxes in the Gary-Hammond area.