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Friday, March 31, 2023

First newborn surrendered to baby box at Ocala fire station

A healthy newborn was recently surrendered to Florida’s only Safe Haven Baby Box, which is located at Ocala Fire Rescue’s headquarters.

This marks the 23rd time that a baby has been surrendered inside a baby box since 2017, and it is the first time that the baby box in Ocala has been used since it was installed in 2020.

The baby box allows for the safe and anonymous surrender of infants when the mother is in crisis or unable to parent. It has heating and cooling elements to provide comfort for the infant along with silent alarms to notify first responders. The infant will be attended to within five minutes, medically evaluated at a local hospital, and adopted within 30 to 45 days.

Safe Haven Baby Boxes is a nonprofit organization that was founded by Monica Kelsey,  who was abandoned as an infant. Prior to founding the organization, she served for eight years in the military and then served her community as a firefighter/medic.

Currently, Kelsey’s life mission is to end infant abandonment with the aid of awareness and education on Safe Haven Laws, and providing anonymous safe surrender locations through Safe Haven Baby Boxes is a key part of that mission.

There are a total of 134 Safe Haven Baby Boxes in the United States, which are available in Indiana, Ohio, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.

Kelsey stated that she is proud of the selfless parent who surrendered their infant via Ocala’s 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.”

“After experiencing our first surrendered child, it’s clear that this resource saves lives,” said Ocala Fire Rescue Chief Clint Welborn. “Knowing that Ocala’s Safe Haven Baby Box just saved a life is our greatest reward.”

Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn stated, “I’m so happy to hear of this miracle baby. I knew when we did this in 2020 this day would come, we all did, we just didn’t know when. We’re glad it was there as a resource for the mother of this child. I’m sure there will be a bright future ahead for this precious child.”

Since November of 2017, a total of 23 infants have been placed in a baby box, and a record 8 babies were surrendered in 2022. Across the country, 125 surrenders have also resulted from calling the National Safe Haven hotline at 1-866-99BABY1.

The Safe Haven Baby Box in Ocala is located at the MLK First Responder Campus (505 NW Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Ocala).

For more information, visit the Safe Haven Baby Boxes website.