First child is surrendered to Mehlville fire station's baby box
A baby girl who was several hours old became the first child to be surrendered in the Safe Haven Baby Box at the Mehlville Fire Protection District Station 2 in south St. Louis County last week.
The baby box at the fire station in Mehlville opened in August 2023 and is the first of its kind in Missouri. Fire Chief Brian Hendricks shared a message with the anonymous person who surrendered the baby on Feb. 8. The child is beautiful and healthy, he said.
“Six months ago I made a pledge to any woman who had the courage to go through what I can only imagine would be just a horrible thing,” Hendricks said at a press conference at the station on Monday. “I made a pledge that we wouldn’t let her down. “And to that mother I would like to say that we loved that baby and cared for that baby the minute we laid eyes on her and the minute we opened up that door.”
When a person opens the baby box, a silent alarm is triggered, and the person in crisis has 30 seconds to put the child inside a small bassinet located just inside the baby box door, Hendricks said. This allows time to leave before anyone is notified.
Once the child is inside, another signal is sent that alerts dispatch crews from the fire station. The box automatically locks when the door is closed shut.
“This baby was not abandoned, this baby was legally, lovingly, anonymously, surrendered,” said Monica Kelsey, founder and CEO of Safe Haven. “It’s an honor to be here for this mother in her time of need.” After she was placed in the box last week, the child was taken to a hospital and is under state care for adoption, Hendricks said.
Following a medical exam, babies surrendered through the boxes will be adopted in 30 to 45 days.
Safe Haven Baby Boxes can only be installed at hospitals, police and fire stations.
Missouri has had a Safe Haven Law since 2002. According to Rep. Jim Murphy, R-St. Louis, more needs to be done. “That this mother was so courageous to put herself aside and do what was best for her child,” Murphy said. “One is not enough, two is not enough. Every hospital in this state should have a baby box. Every fire district should dedicate themselves to putting one of these in, because it saves lives.”
There are currently 202 Safe Haven Baby Boxes across the country, with locations in Indiana, Ohio, Arkansas, Kentucky, Alabama, Florida, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Iowa, Missouri, West Virginia and Mississippi.
Texas, Wisconsin and Kansas recently amended their safe haven laws to include the Baby Box programs, Kelsey said. Plans are in the works for a new baby box just four miles up the road from the Mehlville fire station, Hendricks said.
Babies are sometimes discarded into trash cans and dumpsters, and the baby box helps alleviate that issue, Kelsey said.
“What we’re doing with the boxes is keeping babies out of dumpsters and trash cans, which is what was happening prior to baby boxes,” Kelsey said. “A lot of the babies we get have placentas still attached, some of the [umbilical] cords are cut but not clamped.”
Kelsey, who learned as an adult that she was abandoned as an infant, encouraged the person who surrendered the child at Mehlville to call, text or email Safe Haven. The organization helps provide free health insurance and counseling services for mothers who desire it.
“I know this does not come without pain, we may never know your story, but let me just tell you how many people love you, how many people have been praying for you,” Kelsey added. “And it would be an honor to allow us to walk alongside you. Thank you for trusting your child with us.”
The Safe Haven National Hotline can be reached at 1-866-99BABY1. The hotline provides free, confidential counseling with expertise in each state’s Safe Haven Law. Families seeking to adopt a Safe Haven baby should reach out to their local Department of Family Services to register for foster care with intention to adopt.