Clermont County safe haven box among 2 forced close in Ohio

An Ohio lawmaker says a fix is in the works.
Lawmakers looking to create legislation after baby box closed over staffing
Published: Feb. 21, 2023 at 10:36 PM EST
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CLERMONT COUNTY, Ohio (WXIX) - The founder of so-called “safe haven boxes” that allow a mother to give up her baby anonymously is fighting for changes to state law after two Ohio locations closed.

One of them, located at the Union Township Fire Department, closed in January. Township leaders say their hand was forced by an Ohio Department of Health requirement that first responder staff the box 24/7.

It’s a requirement Monica Kelsey, founder and CEO of Safe Haven Baby Boxes, fears could have dire consequences.

“Anytime you take a resource away from a parent, or a mother in crisis, it’s going to be devastating for everybody involved,” Kelsey said.

Kelsey’s baby boxes are climate controlled and equipped with cameras and sirens to alert a fire official that there is a baby inside in need of care.

“We were finding about two babies dead in our state a year from abandonment prior to the baby boxes,” Kelsey said. “Just have to allow it to do its job.”

John Becker is vice chairman for the Union Township Board of Trustees.

“After it came to our attention that there were agency rules that said we had to have the baby boxed manned 24-7 by a real person as opposed to technology, then we had to make adjustments in our manpower, and that became problematic for our fire department,” Becker said. “We had to juggle people around. [...]It really wasn’t fair to the fire chief that we continued this.”

Ohio Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland) is now on the case. Schmidt says she is going to introduce a bill to the Ohio General Assembly to reopen closed baby-box locations statewide.

Under the bill, according to Schmidt, the alert would be sent to police officers and any other officials in the area in addition to firefighters.

“The communication department will be notified that everyone is leaving the building for a temporary period of time, and then a police officer will then be dispatched to take care of that baby,” Schmidt said. “This is about saving babies lives. And baby boxes are one very important tool that I believe is absolutely necessary.”

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