A newborn has been surrendered to Florida’s only Safe Haven Baby Box for the first time since it was installed two years ago.
Ocala Fire Rescue announced “the arrival of the department’s first surrendered newborn” at a press conference on Thursday.
The climate-controlled box was used “over the holiday,” Safe Haven Baby Boxes founder Monica Kelsey said in a statement, according to NBC affiliate WESH.
Kelsey applauded the parent for surrendering their infant, and praised the community for being prepared, per the outlet.
“We know this baby will be so loved by an adoptive family,” Kelsey said, “and we are so thrilled to be a part of protecting infants from abandonment.”
Florida’s sole baby box is one of 134 that can be found across the United States, allowing people to anonymously surrender a baby to the authorities, per the outlets.
Each box initially costs $10,000 before it is leased out for $200 a month, according to WKMG-TV. The boxes come with temperature controls and a silent alarm that alerts firefighters to a baby’s presence in the box 60 seconds after a child is placed inside.
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Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn was pleased to see the box help the child, whom he called a “miracle baby,” according to WKMG-TV and WESH.
“I knew when we did this in 2020, this day would come – we all did – we just didn’t know when,” Guinn said, per the outlets. “We’re glad it was there as a resource.”
There have been 23 infants placed in baby boxes since the program began in Nov. 2017, according to Safe Haven’s website. The organization says it has assisted with seven adoption referrals in addition to over 100 legal Safe Haven surrenders.
But the program has its critics. Some suggest baby boxes offer an avenue for people to surrender children without parental consent, while others note just how few babies are surrendered each year. (The National Safe Haven Alliance says 33 infants were illegally abandoned and 115 were saved in the U.S. in 2021.)
Safe Haven has also referred over 500 women to crisis pregnancy centers, which are heavily criticized for providing misleading and inaccurate information regarding sexual and reproductive health, according to the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine and the North American Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology.
These facilities “attempt to dissuade pregnant people from considering abortion” and frequently use “misinformation and unethical practices” to do so, according to an Oct. 2019 statement from the groups.
But there apparently is growing interest in baby boxes in Florida. Kelsey said the organization is currently discussing the installation of more baby boxes in various locations across the state, according to NPR.
“The process is working,” Kelsey said at Thursday’s press conference, per the Ocala StarBanner.