CHICAGO (CBS) — It may not look like much, but to some the silver door of a Safe Haven Baby Box is a lifesaver.
Two babies have been saved that way in just a couple of years in Michigan City’s Coolspring Township, according to volunteer Fire Chief Mick Pawlik.
“It’s your last option if you don’t want to make the eye to eye contact. This is totally anonymous here,” Pawlik said. “The minute that door is open there’s an alarm that goes off. It’s a silent alarm.”
Another alarm trips as soon as a baby is placed in the box, notifying emergency personnel within 30 seconds. There’s a button outside, an optional third alarm.
They all alert police, fire and EMS to come pick that baby up within three to five minutes.
“If there’s a baby in here, you cannot open that door again. The only way you can get to this baby is from inside the fire station,” Pawlik said.
It’s equipped with a heating and cooling feature, and according to its creator, Monica Kelsey, this has never failed in any of the 15 locations.
Kelsey said her research found that some women want complete anonymity and don’t want to have the face to face interaction the Safe Haven Law in Illinois requires.
“I’m a firefighter and a medic in Indiana, and my husband is the mayor of our city,” she said. “If a woman brought me a child today, chances are I know her. I probably know her brothers and sisters, and I probably know her parents. She’s not going to feel comfortable bringing a child to me knowing I’m going to know her identity, but would she use one of the boxes?”
And she said they get calls from Chicago mothers asking where the nearest box is.
It’s the one in Coolspring Township more than 45 miles away.
“Her hotline will get a call from people from Chicago wanting to know where the nearest box is, and the hotline will try to tell them, ‘Take it to a hospital. Take it to a fire department.’ This is a last resort. They give them our address. Well, a lot of times we won’t get the baby. Where’s the baby go? We don’t know,” said Pawlik.
There has been local, national and even international push back about Safe Haven Baby Boxes, arguments that they don’t allow for specific medical attention, involvement in the adoption process or any kind of record of origin for when the baby grows up.
“This is a better alternative than the dumpsters, the garbage cans” said Pawlik. “And the ones we don’t know about.”
This idea needs more than support to become a reality in Illinois. The Safe Haven Law currently on the book would have to change to include use of something like baby boxes.