HAMMOND, Ind. | Four months after dedicating the first Safe Haven Baby Box at a hospital in Indiana, Franciscan Health celebrated the installation of a baby box at its second hospital.
The formal blessing on Wednesday at Franciscan Health Hammond also marked the first Safe Haven Baby Box in Lake County. Like the one at Franciscan Health Michigan City, the baby box in Hammond is aimed at preventing the death of an unwanted infant.
The box is available to new mothers who wish to utilize Indiana’s Safe Haven Law, which enables a person to give up an unwanted infant anonymously without fear of arrest or prosecution. The anonymity of the Safe Haven Baby Box is a last resort for women in crisis and displays our Franciscan value of respect for life.
Monica Kelsey, founder and CEO of Safe Haven Baby Box, hailed the success of the effort, saying, “So far in Indiana in just 2019, we have had six safe surrenders in our state and zero dead babies. That’s what it is all about.”
Kelsey thanked LaHayne Funeral Home in Hammond, which donated the cost of the baby box, along with Knights of Columbus, which has raised money to support her organization. Franciscan Health Hammond President/CEO Patrick Maloney also thanked the hospital’s facilities staff, which set up the discreet location outside the Women’s Specialty Center and Renal Dialysis Center Entrance at the hospital, 5454 Hohman Ave. When the box is used, a silent alarm will sound so that staff can immediately tend to the baby.
Linda Znachko, founder of He Knows Your Name Ministry, said that the tiny footprint on the Safe Haven Baby Box signs comes from an infant that died after being abandoned on a cold night in Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis. The baby was found in a Vincennes University Aviation Department sweatshirt, inspiring Znachko to name her Amelia after aviator Amelia Earhart. “Amelia leaves behind her footprint, because the footprint of her body is what tells us that she actually did live,” she said. “No fragile infant should be left outside, especially on a cold winter night.”
For expectant mothers, Franciscan Health Hammond also offers its Prenatal Assistance Program, providing help in accessing hospital and community resources, including obstetrical care, education and emotional support. Danielle Crowder, Franciscan Health Prenatal Assistance Program coordinator noted that Indiana currently has the seventh highest infant mortality rate in the nation, and the mission of the program is to reduce those numbers in Lake and Porter counties.
“It is our goal to ensure that one more baby – times ten – has the opportunity to celebrate their first birthday,” she said.
Father Theodore Nordquist, who conducted the blessing, told onlookers “We all come here in that gratitude, that great hope is being offered now through this box.”
Kelsey’s creation of her organization was inspired by her own experience. Her biological mother became pregnant after a rape and, after her birth, abandoned her at a hospital. Today, she works to educate others on the Safe Haven Law and introduce use of the baby boxes. Kelsey has the goal of making the baby boxes legal in all 50 states by the year 2025.
In Northwest Indiana, the Safe Haven Baby Boxes have also been installed at the Chesterton Fire Department and the Coolspring Township Volunteer Fire Department, where two babies have been left and rescued, one in 2017 and the other in 2018.
For more information about Safe Haven Baby Box locations or to speak to a licensed counselor, call the National Safe Haven hotline at 866-99BABY1 (866-992-2291)