A newborn was surrendered to Florida's only Safe Haven Baby Box. It marked the first time a baby was left inside since the device was installed in 2020.
Ocala Fire Rescue announced in a Jan. 5 press release “the arrival of the department’s first surrendered newborn.”
During a press conference the same day, held in Ocala, which is located about 80 miles northwest of Orlando, Fire Chief Clint Welborn shared that the baby was safely recovered and transported to the hospital. The newborn will be placed for adoption with a family.
Safe Haven Baby Boxes Founder Monica Kelsey also shared that this was the 23rd newborn that has been legally surrendered in one of their boxes. She also sent a message to the person who surrendered the newborn.
“The first thing that we want is we want to address the parents who legally surrendered this infant. And right now I’m going to talk directly to her or him,” she said. “Thank you. Thank you for keeping your child safe. Thank you for bringing your child to a place that you knew was going to take care of this child. And thank you for doing what you felt was best.”
She added that while there are many options the person could have chosen, “and I’m sure this was not an easy option choose, but I want you to know that we’re honoring you today because I hope you find peace in knowing that your child is safe, your child is healthy, and your child will be placed with a set of adoptive parents, if it hasn't already."
“So know that the process has worked and I want you to find peace in what decision you made,” she added. They did not share the newborn’s gender or time the baby was surrendered. Kelsey added during the press conference that once the baby is surrendered and the door locks it sends “an immediate signal” and firefighters are notified.
She estimated that “average time for babies in our boxes are right about a minute and a half.”
In December 2020, Ocala Fire Rescue became the first in the state to unveil a Safe Haven Baby Box. The device “legally permits a mother in crisis to safely, securely, and anonymously surrender a newborn who cannot be cared for.”
There are 134 active baby boxes currently in the United States, per the Safe Haven Baby Box website, with the first baby surrendered in 2017, the same year the company was founded. The devices are temperature controlled and feature a basinet-style bed inside, easy for retrieval.
Kelsey additionally told NBC affiliate WESH in a statement, “We are so proud of this selfless parent who has lovingly surrendered their infant via a Baby Box over the holiday! We are so happy this community was prepared for this situation. We know this baby will be so loved by an adoptive family and we are so thrilled to be a part of protecting infants from abandonment.”