RENSSELAER — The Franciscan value of respect for life continues to grow in the Rensselaer area, as Franciscan Health Rensselaer dedicated a Safe Haven Baby Box at the hospital on Monday.

The installation of the baby box has been in the works for several months and has now come to fruition as the box, located outside the emergency room, was blessed Monday morning. The dedication not only brought together numerous individuals for the Safe Haven Baby Box blessing, but it was also used as a time to remind the audience about the importance of children.

Franciscan Health Rensselaer Chief Operating Officer Carlos Vasquez welcomed those in the audience and thanked the community for the support during the last 5½ years when the hospital changed ownership. He said he has waited a long time to say that a Safe Haven Baby Box is now in Rensselaer.

“This came to fruition by the generosity and philanthropic effort of a lot of individuals, families and entities,” Vasquez said. “We asked and you came through.”

He said the “kindness and generosity” of so many people made the baby box possible in Rensselaer.

A Safe Haven Baby Box allows for women to surrender their babies in a safe place with the hopes of not being seen or no face-to-face contact. The mission of the Safe Haven Baby Box is to prevent illegal abandonment of newborns.

Rensselaer Mayor Steve Wood also thanked the donors. Wood noted that Safe Haven Baby boxes are in several communities across the state and he’s appreciative of one now being in Rensselaer.

“It’s a blessing that this has happened,” Wood said. “Franciscan has been a blessing since they took over the hospital.”

The Safe Haven Baby Box is located on the outside wall of the emergency room garage or entrance. The opening to the box is on the west side of the wall, while the door to the box for hospital staff is inside the garage bay. The box is climate controlled and when a baby is placed in the box an alarm will sound letting hospital staff know a baby is there.

Safe Haven Baby Box Founder Monica Kelsey began Safe Haven Baby Box, Inc., after she saw a “baby box” in operation at a church in Cape Town, South Africa. Kelsey was abandoned as an infant and has made it her personal mission to educate others on the Safe Haven Law.

“We are the only organization in America today that is literally saving babies in boxes at fire stations and hospitals,” Kelsey said. “Safe Haven Baby Box isn’t just saving babies, we are also making families as well.”

She used the example that a baby girl was recently surrendered in a baby box in Clarksville, Ind., on May 2. Kelsey said multiple people who are interested in adopting the baby girl are now being interviewed.

“It’s a good feeling when we get the call that a baby has been saved,” Kelsey said.

The first baby box was ready for use in April 2016. The first surrendered baby happened in November 2017. Since then 11 babies have been placed safely in boxes.

“Ten of those babies were Hoosier babies that we have saved from dumpsters and trash cans,” Kelsey said. “The success lies because we haven’t had a dead baby in the state found in a trash can or a dumpster since we launched. These boxes work.”

Kelsey said women have been asking for anonymity for years and the Safe Haven Baby Box offers that.

Vasquez thanked Kelsey for sharing her remarkable story and making it about helping others.

Rev. Bishop Timothy Doherty, of the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana, blessed the Safe Haven Baby Box. Doherty noted that health care is about healing and accompanying those in need so the box is a way “for those mothers who don’t see another way to turn.” He said he was proud to be at the event.

After the blessing, a demonstration of how the box works was given by Franciscan Health Rensselaer Inpatient Services Manager Christina Hoaks.

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