According to The Hope Box, a national non-profit group, 478 babies were abandoned in Georgia, second only to California with 774 in 2017.
Under a new Georgia law HB 513, which took effect July 1, the Department of Human Services will develop a sign to be posted at any medical facility, fire or police station to inform the general public that it’s an authorized location to leave a newborn child without criminal prosecution.
For years, Savannah fire stations have displayed a yellow safe haven sign to show people it accepts unwanted babies with anonymity, in an effort to save the child’s life.
The Savannah Battalion Chief says “If you have to do it, you can do it without fear of persecution. It’s to stop that adult from that ‘why, why, why aren’t you a good parent?’ And it takes some of the burden off
them and makes it, unfortunately, easier. I guess to where they have some peace to do what they did.”
But it’s important for the drop off person to alert firefighters.
“You might drop off a child and the guys are off performing other duties and no one is there and that child could sit out there for hours so until we’re notified and the best way is to call 911,” Ifill says. “We can send someone back to that station and secure that child and call authorities from that point.”
Georgia hospitals have accepted last resort drop-offs at the Emergency Department. The police station is another authorized site for desperate mothers who can’t care for their newborn.
Also on July 1, the State of Indiana legalized Safe Haven Baby Boxes which are cushioned, ventilated baby deposit boxes.
Once a baby is placed inside and the door flap is shut, it locks. Immediately, a silent alarm is relayed to a rescue team to retrieve the baby within five minutes.
“When a mom walks up to one of these Safe Haven safety boxes, they open the door and an immediate 911 call goes out which is what we call Zone 1,” explained Monica Kelsey of Safe Haven Baby Boxes. “Then once she places her child and presses the button, it shuts the door and this locks. So she can not get her child out even if she changes her mind.”
Kelsey says in the past six months, two babies were dropped off safely. One was rescued within 90 seconds and no infants have died of abandonment in Indiana since the first boxes were installed two years ago.
“In the second baby in the box, the mom drove 51 miles, that’s huge,” said Kelsey. “She passed a hospital that was staffed, a fire station that was staffed to bring the baby to a place where she could remain anonymous.”
No timeline is set for the new, standardized, branded signs for authorized drop off sites in Georgia.