BENTON, Ark. (KATV) — Mothers in Arkansas are now permitted to safely drop off their newborns and walk away with no questions asked at a fire station in Saline County.
Politicians, first responders and community leaders gathered at Benton Fire Station 3 on Wednesday to dedicate a Safe Haven Baby Box, which has been in the works since this year’s legislative session
State lawmakers amended a 2001-passed measure called the Safe Haven Law to allow fire stations to serve as drop off locations for babies.
The Benton City Council unanimously approved the installation of a Safe Haven Baby Box on the wall of Benton Fire Department.
“It’s an opportunity to save a life. It’s that simple,” said Benton Mayor Tom Farmer.
Women can drop off their newborn at 2717 Edison Ave. in Benton, which will alert 911 through the electronically monitored baby box.
Firefighters will assess the child for medical care then transfer the baby to the hospital who will then contact DHS.
Safe Haven Baby Box founder Monica Kelsey shares a personal connection to the cause, as she was left on the side of the road by her 17-year-old birth mom who was attacked and raped.
“For the first time, residents of Arkansas have 100 percent anonymity to surrender their newborn child if they choose to,” Kelsey said.
First Lady Susan Hutchinson attended the dedication ceremony, praising the collaborative effort by state and local dignitaries to ensure the baby box became a reality in the Natural State.
“They can be assured that their newborn will be taken care of. Their newborn will have a soft landing,” Hutchinson said.
Before the amended law, Arkansas mothers were allowed to surrender their children at hospitals and police stations.
Kelsey says over the past 20 years, there’ve been 2,000 babies that have been found in dumpsters and trash cans alongside the road and woods.
Since the program’s inception in 2016, mothers have legally surrendered 55 children at Safe Haven Baby Boxes at the more than 12 locations in the U.S.
Arkansas Sen. Cecile Bledsoe sponsored the amended version of the Safe Haven act in the 2019 legislative session. She’s optimistic in the box’s proper use for those women in crisis who need to make that difficult decision.
“I believe that it is just the beginning because young girls will know that there is no shame, there is no blame and there is no name.”