First baby drop-off box for unwanted newborns installed in Indiana

Monica Kelsey and the town of Woodburn, Ind., dedicated the first Safe Haven Baby Box of its kind on Tuesday, April 26, 2016, at the Woodburn Volunteer Fire Department. The box, which is temperature controlled and has a padded inside, is... (Copyright by WSLS - All rights reserved)

WOODBURN, Ind. (AP) — A Safe Haven Baby Box where mothers can drop off unwanted newborns anonymously with emergency help moments away is now available in northeastern Indiana.

The padded, climate-controlled container was dedicated Tuesday at the Woodburn Volunteer Fire Department about 15 miles east of Fort Wayne near the Ohio state line. It's on an exterior wall of the fire station.

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The Knights of Columbus of Indiana will pay for the first 100 baby boxes, which cost $1,500 to $2,000 each, said Monica Kelsey, a volunteer with the fire department who has been advocating for baby boxes in Indiana for several years.

A second one was dedicated Thursday in Michigan City.

The boxes are equipped with a security system that notifies emergency personnel when a baby is dropped off. Emergency responders can get to the child within minutes.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia have safe haven laws, which allow unharmed newborns to be surrendered without fear of prosecution. Indiana's law allows mothers to drop off newborns at police stations, fire stations and hospitals.

Critics of baby boxes contend the containers make it easier to surrender a child without exploring other options and can deprive mothers of needed medical care.

Kelsey, however, said that some people want total anonymity. She spoke of a girl who called a hotline she volunteers for who wanted to know where a baby box was. The girl refused to go to a hospital or fire station to drop off the baby, but eventually, her boyfriend brought the baby to a hospital.

"This is not criminal," Kelsey said. "This is legal. We don't want to push women away."

The Woodburn baby box was actually installed April 19, the anniversary of when Kelsey says her birth mother abandoned her at a hospital when she was just hours old.

State Rep. Casey Cox, R-Fort Wayne, has supported the concept of baby boxes in Indiana and has been working with lawmakers and Gov. Mike Pence's administration on safety protocols.