KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Knoxville is now home to the first Safe Haven Baby Box in Tennessee, where a mother can safely surrender a newborn child anonymously.
It’s located at Knoxville fire station 17 on Western Avenue.
This Safe Haven Baby Box Drop Off is the first of its kind here in Tennessee. Places like Kentucky, Indiana, and North Carolina already have these boxes in place in their states and they’ve saved over 100 lives.
Every state has a version of the Safe Haven Law that allows a person to surrender unharmed babies to designated facilities within two weeks of the child’s birth without the risk of being prosecuted.
However, only a few states allow a person to do so anonymously.
“There are only ten states though that have the baby boxes which allow anonymity,” Monica Kelsey said. “Now remember, anonymity and confidentiality are two different things.”
Kelsey founded the Safe Haven Baby Box organization after learning about her own abandonment as a child.
“I stand at the front of this movement as one of these kids,” Kelsey said. “I wasn’t lovingly placed in a safe haven baby box and so for me, it’s very important to give this option to parents, because if we can change the heart of a parent, we can save the life of a child.”
“When a woman walks up to one of our safe haven baby boxes all she has to do is open the door, place her baby inside, shut the door, and walk away,” she explained. “Alarms are already being activated she doesn’t have to do anything besides open the door.”
The average time a baby is in a box is just two minutes before a first responder is able to assist.
Senator Richard Briggs (TN-R) has been at the forefront of getting the Safe Haven laws passed in Tennessee.
“It’s a combination of 2 years of hard work by a lot of people,” Briggs said. “We got it through the state legislator, the Knoxville City Council, they approved it, they were able to raise money, and today is the day that we open the box up and we save little babies’ lives.”
This box was completely funded by the Craig Foundation.
“We’re just thrilled that there’s a place here where that can happen,” Laverne Craig said.
“We’re just excited that this is actually a reality,” Jim Craig added.
Although it’s the first box in Tennessee, supporters say they’re looking forward to seeing more across the state.
“Every year there’s been an infant discarded into a dumpster or abandoned someplace that’s not alive and we just don’t want that to happen,” Briggs said.
A Second Safe Haven Baby Box Drop Off is expected to open in West Tennessee later this year.