For the second time in five months, an infant was left in a baby box at a volunteer fire station near Michigan City, Indiana.
Lt. Chuck Kohler of the Coolspring Township Volunteer Fire Department, said everything worked as it is supposed to and he was on scene tending to the baby less than a minute after receiving a page at 7:05 p.m. Sunday that the box’s alarms had been triggered.
The baby appeared healthy and was taken to an area hospital to be cared for. The infant’s umbilical cord was still attached. “Baby Grace,” as firefighters have dubbed the child, was placed in the custody of the Indiana Department of Child Services. Firefighters declined to provide the gender, age or other details about the child.
“I don’t think there’s a word for the emotion,” Kohler said during a news conference Monday at the fire station.
“I was happy, ecstatic to hear the crying, to know the baby is breathing,” Kohler said. “It was exciting, an adrenaline rush that this is really happening.”
Last November, Chief Mick Pawlik found a newborn baby girl in the station’s box, which was installed almost two years ago. The girl, who firefighters dubbed “Baby Hope,” is with a family that’s going through the adoption process.
All 50 states have Safe Haven laws that designate locations where mothers can anonymously leave a child with staff that can provide immediate care. Depending on the state, designated safe haven locations may include health care clinics, police stations, fire stations, emergency medical technicians, churches and other “safe” places a state deems acceptable. As of last year, 3,317 babies have been surrendered at safe havens nationwide.
But only Indiana, Pennsylvania and Ohio have baby boxes where an infant can be left in no one’s immediate care. Baby boxes are safety incubators that resemble night deposit boxes at bank buildings. A person surrendering a child can place the baby in the box by opening a door on the outside of the safe haven, laying the baby on a heated mattress, closing the door and leaving.
The box isn’t without controversy because the infants are left alone, but the box is heated and secure, and opening it from the outside of the station triggers the department’s pager system. The alarm is how Lt. Kohler was able to arrive so quickly.
The only other baby box in Indiana is at a fire station near Fort Wayne. It’s the same station where Monica Kelsey was given up by her mother as a newborn and where she is now a firefighter. She’s also the founder of Safe Haven Baby Boxes.
“There are some moms that will go to the hospital. There are some moms that will walk into this fire station and hand that child over,” said Kelsey. “But we also know that there are some moms that don’t want their faces seen and this box is the reason why it’s working.”
As a dad of five, Kohler says he wants to thank baby Grace’s parents for placing the infant somewhere safe.
“We don’t know the situation, but to make this choice, to be strong enough to make this choice, is wonderful,” said Kohler.