Safe Haven Baby Box blessed in Greenville


By Ryan Berry

GREENVILLE — Giving birth and turning your newborn over to someone else to raise must be an incredibly difficult decision for any birth mother. Looking out for the best interest of a child could be considered heroic. In 2001, Ohio’s legislators recognized the importance of giving newborns a chance to live by enacting the Safe Haven law.

The law allows for birth mothers 30 days to drop off their child in a place where they know the child will receive the best care – police departments, hospitals, and staffed EMS and fire departments. The law provides protection from prosecution only for the newborn’s parents. If the infant is left with a person at one of these places, and has not been abused, the parent will face no legal consequences for making this choice.

Area residents faced with that tough decision will now have an option. On Friday, Nov. 3, a Safe Haven Baby Box at the Greenville Township Fire and Rescue Department, 1401 Sater St., Greenville, was unveiled and a blessing was given. This became Ohio’s 11th Baby Box and 179th in the nation. According to Monica Kelsey, founder of the Baby Box movement, there have been 15 surrenders at Baby Boxes this year.

The Baby Box will allow for the legal anonymous surrender of an infant in the event a mother in crisis cannot parent the child.

Greenville Township Fire Assistant Chief Brian Phillips shared the project was funded through many donations with Radiant Lighthouse taking the lead and making sure the project happened.

While the Baby Box is new for the community, having a mother surrender their child to Greenville Township Fire and Rescue has been done before. Asst. Chief Phillips said, “We learned how valuable this law (Safe Haven) was back on July 1, 2017. Just after midnight, a mother rang our doorbell at these doors you see behind me, and she was holding a little boy. The paramedics took the baby from the mother that was surrendering her child. We made sure the mother didn’t need any medical assistance and the mother left.”

According to Phillips, that isn’t where the story ended. He said he was teaching a class at Eldorado Fire Department and Wayne Rogers was holding a little boy and asked, “Does this child look familiar?” He was holding the child that was surrendered. “It was obvious to me, after seeing Noah, that the Safe Haven law did its job,” said Phillips.

Michelle Phillips and Noah were on-hand to make comments. She said Noah is aware of how he came to them. “The story that we tell is that his mommy just realized she couldn’t give him everything he needed, so she brought him where he was going to be safe,” she said. She added that if she knew who his mom was and she came up to her, she would embrace her. “Giving up a child is the hardest thing you could ever do. The fact that she loved him enough to make sure he was going to survive,” said Rogers.

Wes Lynch, pastor of Radiant Lighthouse Church, said, “Today, I am so excited to be part of a community that not only is pro-life but has action behind it. It’s not just a sign in our yard, it’s not just a verbal commitment, it is an action step. How exciting is it that we live in a community where our actions speak louder than words.” Lynch shared that his family adopted their daughter at six-days old and she was a Safe Haven baby.

Radiant Lighthouse is known for its Blessing Boxes around town and Lynch has been questioned if the Baby Box is like a Blessing Box. He assures them that they do not put food in the box but clarified that it is a blessing to someone.

Kelsey also spoke and shared why she started the Baby Box movement. She said, “In August 1972, a 17-year-old girl was brutally attacked and raped. “When her life was getting back to normal, she found out six-weeks later that she was pregnant. She was hidden for the remainder of the pregnancy and gave birth in April 1973 and abandoned her child two hours after that child was born and that child was me. I was not legally and lovingly and safely surrendered by a parent that wanted me, but I have dedicated my life now to make sure no child ever feels like they are worthless and that there’s a mother that loves them so much that they placed them in a safe place.”

She called Noah’s birth mom a hero. She said these parents are basically saying, “I want what is best for my child and it’s not me. That’s as heroic as it can possibly get. Noah was not abandoned. Noah was legally, lovingly and safely surrendered by a parent who wanted something more for him,” said Kelsey

Pastor Hershel Fee, of Radiant Lighthouse, and Pastor Nick Good, of EUM Church, concluded the program by praying over the box, the parents that may use the box and the parents that will accept the children.

In addition to educating citizens on the Safe Haven Law, Safe Haven Baby Boxes provides free confidential counseling via their hotline 1-866-99BABY1. Kelsey explained, “Mothers in crisis may not have anyone to turn to, but they can call our National Hotline, 1-866-99BABY1 and get counseling on their rights along with their state’s Safe Haven Law.”

To contact Daily Advocate Editor Ryan Berry, email [email protected].

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