Nation’s newest baby box dedicated at hospital

Linda Znachko, left, and Safe Haven Baby Boxes founder and CEO Monica Kelsey present the state’s newest baby box Wednesday at Franciscan Health Crawfordsville.
Linda Znachko, left, and Safe Haven Baby Boxes founder and CEO Monica Kelsey present the state’s newest baby box Wednesday at Franciscan Health Crawfordsville.
Nick Wilson/Journal Review

Crawfordsville became the newest member of a growing list of cities to offer an option for mothers who want to surrender a newborn baby without fear of arrest or prosecution.

A “baby box” recently installed at Franciscan Health Crawfordsville received its formal dedication Wednesday in front of a large crowd. Among the attendants were Safe Haven Baby Boxes founder and Indiana native Monica Kelsey, Franciscan Health Crawfordsville Chief Operating Officer Terry Klein, The Most Reverend Bishop Timothy Doherty and Mayor Todd Barton.

“I’m blessed to have been chosen for this job from our Creator, and I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity to stand on the front lines for moms in this community and beyond,” Kelsey said.

The device — a box installed in an exterior wall consisting of a locking exterior door, a climate-controlled chamber and silent alarms to alert emergency room staff — is the 77th such box in Indiana and the 95th in the country.

“When I started this organization I didn’t think about going outside Indiana, but God had a different plan for me so here I am traveling the country,” Kesley said. “It is a good day to be from Crawfordsville because today we give women of this community another option, and options are good for moms in crisis.”

Baby boxes and state legislation protecting mothers from criminal charges comprise what is known as the Safe Haven Law, which has been adopted by five states, including Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Florida and Arkansas. It is the hope of Kelsey and her partners that every state in the country will adopt the law and pave the way for baby boxes in every community.

Kelsey, a child of a rape victim, was surrendered as an infant in such a way. She said every child has a purpose, and Safe Haven Baby Boxes is hers. She added she was fortunate to have survived the drop off without the use of a baby box.

“So I stand on the front lines of this movement as the child who was left,” she said.

Kelsey was joined by He Knows Your Name Ministries founder Linda Znachko, who travels the country performing burial services for infant victims of abandonment. Znachko noted the state has not seen one fatal case of abandonment in Indiana since baby box efforts began more than seven years ago.

“We have to press on with this goal of getting as many boxes and the legislation passed in as many states as possible,” Znachko said. “Every mother who comes up to this little street and comes up to that sidewalk has to use her own two feet to carry the baby that she chose to carry to life to give her baby a future, an adopted family and medical care.

“I like to say that the safety of the baby box is a baby’s birthday party waiting to happen.”

Though the Franciscan Health Foundation and Safe Haven Baby Boxes partnered for the box, all representatives said it would not have been possible without a long list of local donors, totaling more than 60.

Several churches were involved in getting the word out. Crosspoint Fellowship was one such organization to support and donate to the cause.

“We were able to take a special offering to help bless this,” Pastor Christopher Cregger said. “Our church was able to raise over $2,600 towards this project. We are glad to be a part of it because we believe every generation matters to God, and we also believe our church is here for the mothers who are going to utilize this box.”

Echoing his sentiments was Klein, who opened and closed the ceremony Wednesday.

“We are so proud to have this Safe Haven Baby Box available to the community,” he said. “This will provide an anonymous way for a woman to surrender her child, knowing they’ll be safe and immediately cared for. That is the epitome of one of our organization’s values: respect for life.”

The baby box is located along the southern exterior wall of Franciscan Health Crawfordsville, located at 1710 Lafayette Ave. in Crawfordsville. For more information, visit the Safe Haven Baby Boxes website at www.shbb.org or call the hospital at 765-362-2800.