Mississippi’s first Safe Haven Baby Box installed in Long Beach
LONG BEACH, Miss. (WLOX) - It’s a box that could save a baby’s life, and the first one in the state was installed Thursday at the Long Beach Fire Station.
The Safe Haven Baby Box will be used for parents who want to anonymously and safely give up their newborn child. Advocates hope more cities adopt the idea and that people everywhere see the importance of having one.
It’s a decision that’s not easy for any mother to make - giving up her newborn baby simply because she can’t provide for the child. You sometimes hear tragic stories of infant abandonment where the baby doesn’t survive.
“Most of the time they’re found in dumpsters, woods, ditches,” Long Beach Fire Chief Griff Skellie said. “This gives that person somewhere to bring that child. It turns a bad situation into a good situation.”
On Thursday, you could hear the call for change in Long Beach as the first safe haven baby box was installed at the city’s fire department.
“There’s been a lot of work to get this in motion,” Chief Skellie said. “We’re proud to have it, I know they’re proud to get it.”
“It’s the only anonymous option and will be the only anonymous option in the state that gives women in crisis or parents in crisis an anonymous option to surrender a child 45 days or younger,” Caitlin Kelly, a Safe Haven Baby Box advocate, said.
Kelly has spearheaded the project since September 2022, trying give this option to Mississippi families. She’s passionate because she’s fostered children. For months, Kelly went from city to city trying to get a box installed here on the coast until Long Beach said, “yes.”
“Women need other options,” Kelly said. “With the overturning of Roe versus Wade, I could only tell this would be a perfect opportunity for people to know that an option is needed. Abortion has been banned in 13 different states.”
With the rise in infant abandonment, advocates like Kelly believe this is the best option for struggling families.
“There’s been 32 babies surrendered in the last four years and ten just this year alone,” Kelly said. “My biggest prayer is for more coastal cities to come alongside Long Beach and open more baby boxes. There are 153 boxes in the country and we need more boxes. We need to give women this option.”
Alarms are installed to notify when the door of the box is opened and when the baby is placed inside. The Long Beach Fire Department has staff on hand 24 hours a day.
The boxes are privately funded here in Mississippi and don’t cost taxpayers a dime.
The organization that designs the Safe Haven Baby Boxes also has a 24-hour hotline that parents in crisis can call to receive free assistance: 1 (866) 992-2291
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