One Mississippi Town Introduces Baby Boxes, Where Parents Can Anonymously Give Up Their Infant
In September of 2022, Long Beach, Mississippi became the first city in the state to install a “baby box” (sometimes also called an “infant safe haven box”). States like Indiana, Arkansas, Florida, New Mexico, and Arizona have already been using baby boxes for several years. These boxes are typically installed at fire stations and provide a way for parents to anonymously drop off their newborn if they are unable to care for the child and want to surrender their baby to Child Protection Services (CPS) custody.
How Do Baby Boxes Work?
Baby boxes are installed in an exterior wall of a fire station, police station, or hospital, with one door on the outside of the building, and one door on the inside. The box is not actually a box, but a medical grade baby bassinet that is typically lined with a blanket and some sort of padding. The box has heat and weight sensors that can sense when a baby has been placed inside, and these sensors set off silent alarms when activated. The exterior door also locks once a baby is placed inside so that no one other than a first responder can remove the baby. The boxes are temperature controlled, but the babies are not left in the box for more than a few minutes. The silent alarms alert firefighters inside the building, who can remove the baby from the box for safe transportation to the hospital, where they will receive any necessary medical care until a CPS worker arrives. Then CPS will begin the process of placing the child in foster care where the child may later be adopted.
Why Do We Need Baby Boxes?
When a mother gives birth at a hospital, she has the option to give the baby up for adoption or surrender the baby to CPS custody while they are still receiving care in the hospital. The mother simply needs to tell a nurse or doctor that she does not want to keep the child, the hospital will contact CPS, and CPS will come to the hospital to pick the child up and do the necessary paperwork. But some mothers do not want to do this while they are at the hospital because it is not anonymous. CPS will know the name and identity of the mother who is giving up her baby. If the mother wants to anonymously give up her baby, there is no way for her to do this at the hospital.
Anonymity is important because some parents in crisis may be afraid of getting recognized, and there is a stigma associated with giving up a child. Without a safe location for parents to give up their baby without being seen, parents may abandon their baby in an unsafe location. Providing parents with a safe place to give up their baby anonymously is necessary for the child’s safety. Whether a parent surrenders a child at the hospital or the fire department, there is no prosecution for a parent who voluntarily surrenders a child. This process is separate from any removal proceedings that may happen in a Mississippi Youth Court due to child abuse or neglect.
Choosing to give up a baby is an extremely difficult decision. Baby safe haven boxes provide a solution and give parents in crisis more options if they need help or feel that they are unable to care for their child. The organization that designs the baby safe haven boxes also has a 24-hour hotline that parents in crisis can call to receive free assistance: 1 (866) 992-2291. Thus far, 22 babies have been safely surrendered in baby boxes.
Consider Speaking With a Family Law Attorney
If you are faced with a difficult decision and want to discuss your rights with an attorney, consider talking with one of the qualified and experienced family law attorneys at Vic Carmody Jr., P.A. Consultations are completely free and confidential. Our firm can handle your case with a balance of compassion and confidence to guide you through one of the most difficult times a person can go through. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your case and learn about your options.
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