Baby box unveiled in Ferdinand

Allen Laman/The Herald
Dubois County’s first Safe Haven Baby Box is located in Ferdinand on the side of the Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center ambulance station at 202 E. Third St.


FERDINAND — Dubois County is now home to a box designed to allow mothers a safe, legal and anonymous way of surrendering a child.

Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center held a special ceremony Thursday unveiling and blessing the county’s first Safe Haven Baby Box. It is located in Ferdinand on the side of the Memorial ambulance station at 202 E. Third St. and is active and ready for use.

“The program works,” Monica Kelsey, the founder of Safe Haven Baby Boxes, said at Thursday’s gathering, explaining that the box provides women anonymity. “And that is what they’ve been asking for a very long time. And today we’re giving it to them.”

Indiana’s Safe Haven Law allows people to anonymously surrender their healthy newborn at any fire station, police station or hospital without fear of criminal prosecution — as long as the child appears to be 30 days or younger and unharmed.

According to a press release, the Safe Haven Baby Box is a final resource for women in crisis who want 100% anonymity to ensure a safe surrender of their baby.

The baby box in Ferdinand — like all of the organization’s boxes — is equipped with alarm systems that notify staff inside or outside the station one minute after a baby is placed inside. Safe Haven Baby Boxes also have heating and cooling features and the outside door locks as soon as the child is surrendered.

According to Ferdinand Town Manager Chris James, the Memorial emergency medical technicians residing inside the Ferdinand building will hear an internal alarm when a child is placed inside, and if they’re out on a run, a secondary alarm will sound at the county’s central dispatch. The child will then be transported to the hospital.

A total of nine babies have been placed inside Safe Haven Baby Boxes since 2016. Kelsey explained to the crowd that a few years ago, “a parent in your community” was desperate to surrender a child into a baby box, but because one wasn’t available, that parent was coached to legally surrender the child at a medical facility.

The installation of the box on the side of the brick building in Ferdinand was made possible through the efforts of Jasper Middle School eighth-graders Isabella Harmon and Tori Hemmerlein. Months ago, the girls gave a presentation about the boxes to Memorial leadership that piqued the adults’ interest in the project.

“From the very beginning, as I listened to these two young women, it was clear to me and to our organization that the question wasn’t if we could participate with bringing a Safe Haven Baby Box to our area,” said Kyle Bennett, president and CEO of Memorial, “but how we would participate. The opportunity for Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center to support the presence of a Safe Haven Baby Box in our area aligns with our mission as we care for the communities we serve. And we’re thankful to be part of this wonderful initiative.”

Bennett later said that the collective efforts will be worth it if just one child is saved in the community.

Isabella and Tori spoke to the crowd at the event and thanked their supporters for making their goal of bringing a box to the community a reality. Tori was born in China and was adopted by the Hemmerleins after her biological mother abandoned her as an infant.

“If my biological mother had been found, she would have been in serious trouble for abandoning me,” Tori said. “When the Harmons told me and my family about this project, I related it to my life and thought it would be cool if this project could save another baby in a similar situation to what I was as an infant. To me, the baby box project is an option for a parent to surrender their child in a safe, secure and legal way.”

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