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Baxter Health unveils Safe Haven Baby Box at hospital campus

Baxter Health unveils Safe Haven Baby Box at hospital campus
Monica Kelsey gives a speech at the unveiling of Baxter Health’s Safe Haven Baby Box. Baxter Health is the second hospital in Arkansas to host a Safe Haven Baby Box. Photo by Chris Fulton/MHO

Baxter Health has officially become the second hospital in Arkansas history to join with Safe Haven Baby Boxes to provide a safe drop-off location for the babies of struggling mothers who can no longer provide for their newborn child.

The drop-box, which is located on the east side of Baxter Health’s hospital campus in Mountain Home, is connected to one of the hospital’s break rooms, ensuring that it will be monitored 24/7.

The new drop-box was created through the joint efforts of Safe Haven Baby Boxes, Baxter Health, members of the Mountain Home Chamber of Commerce 2022 Leadership Program, Baxter Health Foundation, Informed Choices Women’s Center, The Knights of Columbus and St. Peter the Fisherman Catholic Church.

“We have but one prayer today,” said Baxter Health Chaplain Randy Ludwig. “And that is that this box never gets opened. But when it does, and if it does, we’re grateful for the many people that are here.”

Founded in 2015 by Monica Kelsey, Safe Haven Baby Boxes set up its first drop-box at a local firehouse in 2016 in Woodburn, Indiana. Since then, the non-profit organization has gone on to provide a 24/7 hotline that has received over 8,000 phone calls from every state in the United States, while referring over 500 women to crisis pregnancy centers.

The organization has also assisted in nine adoption referrals and has managed over 120 legal surrenders. A total of five babies have been surrendered since the beginning of this year. Surrender stations are usually located at local firehouses and hospitals. Baxter Health now marks the 140th Safe Haven Baby Box location in the United States.

“We are the only organization in America today that is literally saving babies in boxes at fire stations and hospitals,” said Monica Kelsey, president of Safe Haven Baby Boxes. “I don’t know if you’ve been watching the news, but in the last three weeks, we’ve had three infants, five so far this year. It’s incredible the amount of support that these parents are getting, and these babies, their lives are being saved.”

In 1972, a 17-year-old girl was brutally attacked and raped before being left to die on the side of the road. That girl managed to survive and was even able to press charges against her rapist who was arrested.

A mere six weeks after surviving her attack, the young 17-year-old discovered that she was pregnant with her rapist’s child. After receiving advice from her mother, the girl visited a back alley abortion clinic in Oct. of 1972, but was ultimately unable to go through with the act.

Instead, the soon to be mother went into hiding and gave birth to a little baby girl in 1973. She would abandon her baby at a small hospital in Ohio two hours after giving birth.

That baby girl was Monica Kelsey.

“I stand on the front lines of this movement, as one of these kids that wasn’t lovingly and safely and legally surrendered in a Safe Haven Baby Box,” Kelsey said. “Today, I’m giving hope out of abandonment. I’m bringing an option for them to allow them to save the life of their child and for their life to go on.”

During her speech at Baxter Health yesterday, Kelsey highlighted that her Safe Haven program also put a major focus on helping mothers get help if they asked for it, noting that one mother who had surrendered her child had left behind her contact information, as well as personal notes for her child and her child’s adoptive mother. Those notes allowed Kelsey to connect with the mother and get her the help she needed.

That mother, according to Kelsey, is in the process of meeting the woman that adopted her child.

“Our job actually starts when a baby’s placed inside this box, because we want to reach out to the parent if she’ll allow us to walk alongside her,” Kelsey said. “In this case, this little girl was placed in our box and her mother did reach out and has been getting counseling. And now this adoptive parent is going to meet the birth mother of her daughter and it’s just beautiful.”

The idea to attempt to install a Safe Haven drop-box at Baxter Health came from Denise Malloy of St. Peter the Fisherman Catholic Church, who had learned about the drop-box program from a friend in Jonesboro.

After learning about the program, Malloy spent the next nine months coordinating with Baxter Health, the Mountain Home Chamber of Commerce 2022 Leadership Team, Baxter Health Foundation, the Informed Choices Women’s Center and Kelsey to install a box at the hospital.

Malloy said Baxter Health was immediately receptive to the idea of adding the drop-box to the hospital.

“It sat in our ministry for five months, we could never move forward, and then suddenly, things started happening,” Malloy said. “I met with Debbie Recktenwald [of Informed Choices Women’s Center] and she was like, let’s just push it forward. Let’s make this happen.”

Cost for the Safe Haven Baby Box ran around $11,000 for the box itself and an additional $5,000 for its installation. It cost another $800 to transport the box to Baxter Health. Money raised for the project came from the Mountain Home Chamber of Commerce, Baxter Health Foundation and the Knights of Columbus, and others.

The Mountain Home Chamber of Commerce 2022 Leadership Team donated $2,000 to Baxter Health for the Safe Haven Baby Box during yesterday’s unveiling.

“We may never know the reason a mother uses this box, but let me just tell her, we’ve made this legal for you just in case. Just in case you need it, it’s here, and we’ll walk alongside you every step of the way,” Kelsey said.

Originally published online by the Mountain Home Observer on Tuesday, April 4.