OCALA, Fla. – A newborn was surrendered to Florida’s first and only Safe Haven Baby Box, marking the first time it has been used, News4JAX sister station WKMG-TV Click Orlando reported Thursday.
The baby box is located at Ocala’s Fire Rescue headquarters. Safe Haven Baby Boxes founder and CEO Monica Kelsey, Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn and Ocala Fire Chief Clint Welborn discussed the surrendered baby during a news conference Thursday morning.
Ocala’s location is the only one in Florida, and it is one of 134 boxes in the U.S. When it was installed in December 2020, it marked the first Safe Haven Baby Box in Florida.
Kelsey came up with the idea for Safe Haven Baby Boxes because officials were still finding dead, abandoned babies despite states having a Safe Haven law, allowing mothers to surrender newborns to hospitals and fire stations.
“My biological father is a rapist and I was abandoned at birth and my life still has value. I wish that today, my birth mom would have had those resources all those years ago,” Kelsey said.
The boxes have a heater, cooling unit and are alarm activated, according to Kelsey. The silent alarm will alert firefighters there is a baby in the box 60 seconds after the newborn is placed in it.
“Sixty seconds is enough time for mom to get away,” Kelsey said.
Once the baby is inside, the outer door locks and only safety or medical personnel can access it. Afterward, the newborn is attended to within five minutes, medically evaluated at a local hospital and adopted within 30-45 days, Safe Haven officials said in a release.
Chief Welborn and Mayor Guinn also discussed the surrender during the conference, saying that the resource helps to save lives.
“I’m so happy to hear of this miracle baby,” Guinn said. “I knew when we did this in 2020 this day would come. We all did. We just didn’t know when. We’re glad it was there as a resource for the mother of this child. I’m sure there will be a bright future ahead for this precious child.”
The Safe Haven Baby Box costs $10,000 and is leased for $200 a month. Thus far, 23 infants have been placed in a Baby Box since November 2017, according to Safe Haven.