Georgetown firefighters officially open Indiana's 94th baby box

Dec. 15—GEORGETOWN — The Georgetown Township Fire Department Station #1 on Thursday officially opened the 94th Safe Haven Baby Box in Indiana.

Safe Haven Baby Box is a nonprofit organization that provides an avenue for mothers in desperate need and who want to do right by their child, but know they cannot take care of the child. Indiana safe haven laws dictate that anyone can drop off the child at a firehouse or hospital. From there, the firehouse or hospital will make sure the child will get the care that it needs with no questions asked.

The organization was founded by Monica Kelsey. Before starting Safe Haven Baby Box, she served in the military and later was a firefighter/medic in her community.

"I'm going to take you back a few years to August 1972 when a 17-year-old girl was brutally attacked and raped and left alongside the road," Kelsey said. "This 17-year-old girl was strong enough to press charges against the man who raped her."

The man was arrested and charged for what he had done. The girl found out she was pregnant after the trial was over.

She ended up going through the pregnancy and gave birth to the child in April 1973.

"(The mother) abandoned her child two hours after that child was born," Kelsey said. "That child was me."

From her own experience of being abandoned and seeing a baby box in operation at a church in Cape Town, South Africa, Kelsey was inspired to create Safe Haven Baby Box in the U.S.

Kelsey was able to meet her mother later on in her life.

"It gave me the empathy I needed to be able to do what I do today," Kelsey said. "... Just walk along parents in crisis. There's so many people that will shame them or judge them or tell them that what they're doing or their decision is wrong."

Bill Banta, Georgetown fire chief, says that the addition of the baby box is good for the community and that it will save many lives.

"I honestly believe there's a certain amount of good in everybody," Banta said. "I don't think those mothers who do end up putting their babies on dumpsters ever have wanted to do that. If we gave them an option, it would be different. That's what we want."

When a baby is dropped off in the box, a series of silent alarms go off and notify the firefighters. The first alarm notifies them that the exterior door has been opened.

The second one notifies that the pressure sensor under the bassinet for the baby has been triggered. After the box has been checked for a baby in the box, the Floyd County Sheriff's department gets a call that a baby is in the box and an ambulance is sent to the fire department.

"We will take care of it, give it immediate needs like first aid," Banta said. "When the ambulance gets here, we turn it over to them and they take it to the hospital and it enters the system."

Banta has been the chief of the fire department since March 2020 and says that he has not experienced a baby being left at his department ever since working there.

"Out there I have almost a million dollars of equipment I hope I never have to use, but I have it in case I need it," Banta said. "Yes, it's a lot of money, but if I don't have it, it costs more. It's the same thing with the baby box. I hope I never have to use it, but I have it."