LEBANON, Ohio — Lebanon will be one of the latest cities in Ohio with a “baby box” at its fire station to allow parents in crisis to safely, securely and anonymously surrender their newborn if they are unable to provide care.
The baby boxes are utilized under the state’s Safe Haven Law to help the parents and the newborns from possible harm.
City Manager Scott Brunka said the city’s safety device is in production and could be installed and operable in the next several weeks. He said it would be installed at the city’s new fire station on North Broadway.
“The city received a private donation in the amount of $10,000 to help support the cost of the baby box,” Brunka said. “The rest is being covered by the city.”
He said the baby boxes cost about $16,000 to obtain and install.
Last September, Councilman Adam Mathews proposed the city obtain a baby box, and said, “If it saves one baby, then it will be a success.”
According to public officials, the baby boxes are built into the exterior of the building. The safety devices have a heating and cooling system and once the baby is put in the box and door is closed, the device has a locking mechanism and an alarm to let staff know there is a baby present.
Ohio’s Save Haven law was adopted in 2001 as a way to reduce the number of deaths due to abandonment in unsafe environments. The law allows a mother or father to anonymously and legally drop off a baby, up to 72 hours old, with a medical worker at a hospital; a medical worker at a fire station or other emergency service organization; or to a peace officer at a law enforcement agency.
In 2009, the law was amended to increase the time period up to 30 days during which a parent may legally abandon a child, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
OJFS said if the baby needs medical attention, it will be provided. The professional staff person who accepts the baby will contact the county children services agency; and the baby will be placed in an adoptive home as there are many families who want to adopt a baby. If a child is not left at a hospital, the child will be taken to a hospital to be examined by a physician.
If there are signs of abuse or neglect, the county is required to take all necessary steps to identify and locate the child’s parents and begin an assessment and investigation, according to OJFS. The hospital also will perform genetic tests for future identification in case a parent requests the return of an infant.
There are more than 100 of these baby boxes in operation across the nation and six have been installed in Ohio -- in Delhi Twp. in Cincinnati, Union Twp. in Clermont County, and in Defiance, Van Wert, Hicksville and Sunbury.