TAMPA, Fla. — When a mother is left with no other options to take care of her child sometimes she feels she has to give them away. When they make this extremely tough decision, they're supposed to take them to a safe haven spot.
And now, a bill going through the Florida legislature could keep those children left at these spots - especially infants - a lot safer.
If passed, Safe Haven Baby Boxes could be installed at fire departments and hospitals across the state.
The boxes eliminate the need for face to face interaction during a surrender.
“What we found is that women are just a little bit afraid of that face to face interaction. They want complete anonymity,” Pam Stenzel said.
Stenzel is with Safe Haven Baby Boxes and she's fighting for them to come straight to Florida.
“It’s a device that is put into the fire station or hospital. It still has to be a safe haven site and it is completely electronically monitored. It is kept warm or cooled like the ability we have to keep our ambulances,” Stenzel said.
The non-profit organization has gotten boxes installed in Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana and Ohio. Whenever a mother opens the box an alarm is triggered so paramedics will know a baby has been surrendered.
“Any movement in the box there's another trigger and then once it is shut it’s locked and no one from the outside can retrieve that baby. That baby is then on the inside and is retrieved by the paramedics. We had an infant surrendered in Indiana just two days ago and our firefighters were there in under one minute,” Stenzel said.
It’s only supposed to take four minutes or less for the baby to be rescued. Stenzel says they're focused on Florida because it ranks third in the country after almost 19 babies were dropped off illegally within the last three years.
“What we’re trying to do with changing the law is make it 30 days instead of seven days as a grace period to drop off. It gives us a little stronger window and then also make these surrenders legal, so that is a legal surrender for you to utilize the box at a fire station or the hospital without having to go in,” Stenzel said.
Stenzel says a drop off is never easy. Sometimes handwritten notes are left for the baby to read when they get older.
“All of the young women I’ve talked to in the last four years specifically along this line, they love their babies. We want women to know that this is an option so that if and when they were ever in a circumstance that they were in crisis and didn't know what to do they would understand that that is illegal,” Stenzel said.
Stenzel will be lobbying for this bill to pass the house and senate next week. They're hoping to get at least one box in both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.
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