SEYMOUR, Ind. (WDRB) -- A fire station in Seymour is the ninth location in the Hoosier state to receive a baby box to help mothers in crisis safely give up their babies anonymously and judgement-free.
The latest Indiana Safe Haven Box at Seymour Fire Station #3 is available to the public. Mothers can walk up, place their newborns inside and close the door.
"Being abandoned at birth, being conceived in rape, I'm your poster child for an unwanted child," said Monica Kelsey, founder and CEO of Safe Haven Baby Boxes. "I had to work through that and say, 'There's a reason I'm here. There's a reason that my life was saved, and the reason is so I may save others.'"
The Safe Haven Law is in place to provide a safe way to surrender healthy newborns without fear of criminal prosecution. Kelsey, a former firefighter and paramedic, is taking it a step forward with baby boxes. She got the idea she during a trip to South Africa.
"Even with the Safe Haven Law, we're still finding 150 babies dumped in our country every year, and the majority of them outside the doors of Safe Haven locations such as fire stations," she said. "And it would be so much safer for a woman to place her child in one of her electronically monitored box than at the door step of that fire station, and that's why we started this program."
This year alone, four babies have been surrendered in Indiana: one at a baby box location and three at locations without boxes.
"There's no judgement at our box," Kelsey said. "There's no shame, there's no blame, and there's no names."
The 24-hour hotline has resulted in 51 surrenders nationwide. It is available in both Spanish and English.
The baby boxes are climate-controlled, and a silent alarm notifies the fire department when the door closes.
"It didn't take long to make a decision to say, 'Absolutely. We want to do this,'" Seymour Fire Chief Brad Lucas said. "I'm confident it'll be used at some point."
This is the ninth box in the Hoosier state. The location was chosen because of its proximity to I-65. It doesn't require tax dollars and was made possible by Columbus North High School graduate, Hunter Wart. He paid for half of the $10,000 cost as part of his senior project.
"Once I heard the stories of people abandoning their babies, it was kind of hard not to want to raise the money to save them," Wart said.
The footprint on the boxes honors the life of baby Amelia, who was abandoned in Indianapolis in 2014.
"She is a remembrance of what happens when you don't have an option for a mom in crisis," said Linda Znachko with He Knows Your Name Ministry. "And the safe surrender is important with the law, but an anonymous surrender is even more important."
It's come full circle for Kelsey, who witnessed the effects of her work first-hand.
"Holding that little girl in my arms just brought it all forward, because now, the child that my birth mom saved is now saving others," she said. "It doesn't get any better than that. It just doesn't."
While Kelsey said there aren't any plans for baby boxes in Kentucky, she has approached legislators in hopes of making that possible.
For a list of all Safe Haven Baby Box locations, click here.
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