LOUISVILLE, Ky. — For new mothers who’ve decided they’re not ready to take care of their babies, there’s a new option spreading across Kentucky.

It keeps the babies safe and helps them find a loving home, while also giving peace of mind to the mothers.

What You Need To Know

  • Safe Haven Baby Boxes give mothers who aren’t ready to care for a child a safe option for the child to find a new home

  • The boxes are becoming more prevalent in Kentucky

  • Founder Monica Kelsey was a child of rape, and was abandoned as a baby

  • Kelsey said her goal is no more abandonments in the country

The woman behind it is trying to help others avoid the trauma she overcame in her own life.

The Safe Haven Baby Box is something Monica Kelsey’s birth mother didn’t have access to when Kelsey was born.

Monica Kelsey, who founded Safe Haven Baby Boxes, was abandoned as a baby. (Spectrum News 1/Sam Knef)

“I do wish my birth mom would’ve had a lot of the resources that are available today back in the 70s, because she had no one,” Kelsey said. “We want these around and accessible for a woman in crisis.”

Her birth resulted from her mother surviving a brutal rape. She passed away a few years ago. That’s why it’s personal for Kelsey.

“This is very personal for me because I was one of these kids that was abandoned as an infant, and so I want to make sure that women in this community know that this is ok, that there’s no shame here, no blame here, and I’ve made this legal for them, so that we don’t find any babies dead in dumpsters and trash cans, and mothers can go on with their life know that they saved the life of their child,” Kelsey said.

Kentucky’s Safe Haven Law allows parents to leave newborn infants less than 30 days old at a fire station, police department or hospital.

Kelsey developed Safe Haven Baby Boxes, which don’t require mothers to surrender a child face-to-face with someone else. She came up with the idea after a visit to South Africa in 2013.

“I mean, we were being hammered on that this was a horrible idea to put a baby in a box, but the alternative is a dumpster,” she said.

Safe Haven Baby Boxes is a 501c3 nonprofit. Donations and fundraising fund the organization, and it doesn’t take any government funds.

They recently unveiled a box at the Fort Mitchell Fire Department in Northern Kentucky.

The box at Louisville’s Pleasure Ridge Park Fire Station became the sixth in Kentucky, and 98th in the country. Kelsey said there have been a lot of abandonments in Louisville over the last 20 years, and this was an area that needed a box.

Fire District Chief Doug Recktenwald said it was a welcomed addition.

“This box was truly made possible by the giving of our extended community. And I appreciate that. And I hope it does great things for pleasure ridge park,” Recktenwald said.

How it works is simple.

“All [the mother] has to do is open the door, place her uncharted newborn that is 30 days old or less inside the baby box, shut the door, and a series of alarms are already going off. She’s not going to hear anything,” Kelsey said.

The first alarm sounds when the door opens. Then the second when the baby is placed inside. The box calls 9-1-1 on its own. Dispatch gets a call whether firefighters are at a station.

The box is temperature controlled, staying between 75 and 85 degrees at all times. Babies stay inside for two to three minutes at most, Kelsey said.

The woman remains anonymous. Babies are placed in an ambulance and taken to the hospital for evaluation 

“Every state that we launch in, every single state that we come into, abandonments drop. Any mother that chooses to surrender under the safe haven law is basically saying, ‘I want what’s best for my child, and it’s not me.’ And that is nothing less than heroic and selfless,” Kelsey said. “These mothers who choose this have already thought this through. Their heart is breaking, but they know that they want something better for their child.”

We place babies with a temporary foster for 30 days, then placed with their forever family, which Kelsey said is usually within 30 to 45 days.

Kelsey said all babies that have come through the program have been adopted.

Her goal is no more abandoned babies in the country. While she’s a shining example of beating the odds, that’s not something she says anyone should be forced to do.

The company plans to launch its 100th baby box on Feb. 18, 2022.