Safe Haven Baby Box operational in Gates County
Published 4:42 pm Friday, September 29, 2023
By ANN TAYLOE
GATESVILLE – Over 50 people braved tropical storm Ophelia and gathered at Gates County Rescue & EMS Station 10 on Saturday (Sept. 23) to celebrate a historic occasion – the dedication and blessing of the 167th Safe Haven Baby Box (SHBB).
This was a momentous occasion for North Carolina on two counts: this baby box is only the second baby box in the state and the first installed in an EMS station.
The journey to install a baby box in Gates County began nearly two years ago when a promotional Safe Haven Baby Box flyer arrived in the mail. With flyer in hand, Ann and Bob Tayloe of The Haven Missionary Care Center, Chaplain Susan Westfall of the International Fellowship of Chaplains, along with Pastor Kyle Truman of Hope Fellowship in Gatesville prayed together and agreed to pursue this adventure to the glory of God, for the benefit of this community, and with the hope of saving babies’ lives.
EMS Chief Stormy Butts and the board of directors for Gates County Rescue & EMS unanimously agreed to have the Safe Haven Baby Box installed at Station 10. This baby box was solely funded by individual members from Gates County, organizations, and churches. There were no tax dollars spent on this box.
According to Monica Kelsey, the main speaker for the “Blessing Ceremony” and SHBB founder and CEO, the mission of Safe Haven Baby Boxes is to prevent illegal abandonment of newborns. The organization does this by raising awareness of Safe Haven or Safe Surrender Laws and by offering a 24-hour hotline for parents in crisis.
The first Safe Have Baby Box was installed in 2016, which began a movement to provide a physical option for mothers in crisis to safely and legally surrender their newborn and at the same time maintain complete anonymity. SHBB trains hospital staff and first responders on the Safe Haven Laws, which have been passed in all 50 states. These personnel are also trained on how to handle a safe surrender of a newborn child and how to respond appropriately and compassionately to a mother-in-crisis.
During the dedication ceremony, Chaplain Susan, the Master of Ceremonies, also gave a shout out to the contractors, Revelle Builders, B&M Contracting, and SCI Technologies, who did a fantastic job of installing and alarming the baby box. Also, Pastor Truman shared some challenging thoughts from the Scriptures regarding the plight of our pre-born neighbors, and Ann Tayloe gave an overview of the North Carolina General Statute 7b-520.
Chief Butts explained exactly how the baby box functions and invited guests to view it.
The Baby Box is a climate-controlled safety device provided under a state’s Safe Haven Law. The installation of the box occurs on the exterior wall of a firehouse, EMS agency, or hospital.
Testing occurs at every stage of the box installation, including design, development, and deployment. It features multiple alarms in the device which alert first responders that a baby has been surrendered. The box’s alarms are tested weekly to ensure there will be no failures. The staff at Gates County EMS will be trained on how the device operates.
When a baby is dropped off, the parent opens the exterior door to the Baby Box, which triggers a silent alarm, and sends a call to 911 Dispatch. The infant is placed in a medical bassinet that stays in the box at all times. A sensor located on the inside of the box triggers a second 911 Dispatch call. The exterior door automatically locks upon placement of a newborn.
Within five minutes, the infant will be rescued by first responders. An interior door allows a staff member to secure the surrendered newborn from inside the designated building. Evaluation of the infant begins immediately, including a medical examination at the hospital. After the child is given a clean bill of health at the hospital, the child will go into the custody of the local foster care system.
Safe Haven Baby Boxes staff travels to fire stations and hospitals to train first responders on the Safe Haven Law, how to handle safe surrenders and their response to mothers in crisis.
In North Carolina, the law allows a baby no more than 30 days old to be surrendered, providing a safe alternative for a parent who, in a crisis or in desperation, may physically abandon or harm their child.
Before the official ribbon-cutting on Saturday morning, Pastor Greg Jernigan of Beulah Baptist Church and Pastor Wade Bennett of Eure Christian Church offered prayers of dedication and blessing over this newest installation of a Safe Haven Baby Box.
The Gates County SHBB is now fully operational and will serve mothers in crisis from southeastern Virginia and eastern North Carolina.
For more information on the Safe Haven Baby Boxes, visit SHBB.org.
SHBB Crisis Hotline is 1-866-99BABY1 or 1-866-992-2291.