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Newborn baby surrendered in Safe Haven baby box at Mehlville Firehouse

<i></i><br/>A newborn baby was surrendered in Safe Haven baby box at Mehlville Firehouse in Missouri.
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A newborn baby was surrendered in Safe Haven baby box at Mehlville Firehouse in Missouri.

By Caroline Hecker

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    ST. LOUIS, Missouri (KMOV) — Firefighters at a Mehlville Fire Station were greeted with an unexpected delivery last week when a newborn baby was surrendered in a Safe Haven baby box at the firehouse.

The box, located at Fire House 2 on Telegraph Road, was installed last August as the first Safe Haven box in Missouri. Last week while out on a call, firefighters were notified the box’s door had been opened, triggering a silent alarm.

“The process worked exactly as it was designed,” said Fire Chief Brian Hendricks. “Within 60 seconds, that baby was safely in the arms of our firefighters.”

Chief Hendricks said the baby appeared to be only a few hours old and was taken to the hospital to receive medical attention. The healthy baby girl is now in the custody of the State of Missouri as she awaits the adoption process.

“For a mother to choose a Safe Haven baby box, she’s basically saying ‘I want what’s best for my child and it’s not me,” said Safe Haven founder Monica Kelsey. “That’s heroic, but not without pain.”

The box allows a parent to drop a newborn off anonymously and legally after legislation supported by Rep. Jim Murphy recently passed in Jefferson City.

“This mother was so courageous to put herself aside and do what was best for her child’s future is a blessing to all,” said Rep. Murphy.

According to Missouri law, a parent can surrender a newborn up to 45 days old without prosecution as long as it is done safely.

“If I do nothing else, today we did something important, we saved a life,” he said. “There’s nothing more important than that.”

Every week, firefighters train to respond to the silent alarm triggered by the box being opened. Last week, Chief Hendricks said firefighters were in shock when they realized it wasn’t a training exercise.

“To that mother, I would like to say, ‘we loved that baby and cared for that baby the minute we laid eyes on her and the minute we opened up that door,” he said. “I made a pledge that we wouldn’t let a mother down.”

In addition to resources like a baby box, a variety of additional resources exist for new mothers and families in the St. Louis region. At the Crisis Nursery, a 24/7 hotline walks parents through their needs along with those of their babies.

“If a family were to call, we have trained staff answering the phone,” said Chief Program Officer Molly Brown. “Whether that’s support, basic needs like a safe place to stay, diapers, formula, we want to help those parents.”

Depending on a parent’s needs, the Crisis Nursery will also look after a child for up to 72 hours, allowing the parent to rest, accomplish other tasks and regroup.

“It’s amazing the power of having time for yourself,” said Brown. “To think through things or to get things done. We also know there’s power in a good night’s rest and how that can help with decision making and clear thinking, and being able to consider all the support that could be available.”

Above all, Brown said a support system is critical in what’s often a challenging post-partum period and beyond.

“Giving birth is a really emotional time, not having support is really difficult position for families to be in or a young mom to be in, not having a safe place to turn again, can be very difficult for a mom,” she said.

The Mehlville Fire Protection District hopes to have another Safe Haven Baby Box installed at another firehouse by the end of next year.

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