21st Century Baby in the Bullrushes
Remember the sweet biblical story of baby Moses in the bullrushes? Pharoah had decreed that all male Jewish children would be killed as his way of limiting the Hebrew population in Egypt (Exodus 1 and 2). Moses’ mother hid baby Moses as long as she could but eventually made a basket boat of papyrus and pitch and hid him among the bullrushes in the Nile. One day Pharoah’s daughter went to the Nile to bathe and discovered the Hebrew baby there. Despite her father’s decree, she kept the baby and adopted him. So, Moses grew to manhood in Pharoah’s home. The rest, as they say, is history.
Something like that is happening now as babies are placed in Safe Haven Baby Boxes in 135 locations around the country. I recently learned of the first such box in my town of Knoxville, Tennessee. This blog is about 21st Century babies in the “bullrushes” or Safe Haven Baby Boxes.
Serving reluctant mothers and their newborns
What happens when a young woman gives birth and cannot or doesn’t want to care for the baby? Of course, there is adoption, but that comes with a fair amount of red tape. What if the mother is embarrassed either that she became pregnant or is unable to care for her baby? What then? The solution is a baby box in the outside wall of a fire station where the mother can drive up unseen, place her baby in a secure box that locks when she closes the door, and the right people are immediately notified that a baby has been placed there. The baby is secure, and no red tape!
A good friend, Laverne Craig, recently celebrated the culmination of a two-year process of installing such a baby box in a Knoxville, Tennessee fire station with the “opening ceremony” of the new baby box. Laverne and her husband, Jim, have been all about serving others as long as I have known them. The baby box is just their newest serving venture.
“I was impressed by God to do this.”
A few years back, Laverne served on the board of a local ministry—Secret Safe Place for Newborns, which opened her eyes to the need of caring for unwanted babies. But she discovered that the state of Tennessee did not allow mothers to give their babies away anonymously. Mothers wanting to give up their babies were required to take their babies and give them to the fire station or hospital personnel in person. Some very young mothers may be unwilling to do that. So, Laverne met with state legislators who changed Tennessee law to allow anonymity. Tennessee is just the eleventh state to do so.
When Laverne began working on this project, she had no way of knowing Roe v. Wade would be overturned by the Supreme Court in 2022. As a result, the need for a simple, easy way for mothers to give up their babies increased overnight. “I didn’t know what the Supreme Court was going to do, but God did,” says Laverne.
What happens when a baby is placed in a baby box?
When a baby is placed in a baby box, the door to the box locks to the outside. Immediately, two alarms sound—one in the fire station to alert the fire personnel that a baby is in the box and one at 911 in case the fire personnel are out on a call, in which case 911 dispatchers will notify the closest station to retrieve the baby. According to Safe Haven Baby Boxes, a national organization promoting the installation and use of baby boxes, the average length of time a baby is in the box is 2 to 3 minutes. The longest stay has been 4 minutes.
Once a baby is taken from the box, it is taken to a hospital for immediate care. The Department of Children’s Services has custody of the baby at that point and until it is placed in foster care or adopted. If a mother changes her mind, she has 30 days to reclaim her baby as long as she can prove she is the mother.
Safe Haven Baby Boxes
Although Safe Haven Baby Boxes is a relatively new organization, there are already 135 boxes scattered across several states. These numbers will surely grow and quickly. Their mission is: “Safe Haven Baby Boxes mission is to prevent illegal abandonment of newborns by raising awareness, offering a 24-hour hotline for mothers in crisis and offering the Safe Haven Baby Boxes a last resort option for women who want to maintain complete anonymity.”
Laverne Craig envisions more baby boxes across Tennessee. “There are several other locations already under consideration. There are other needs as well. We need people to go to middle and high schools to make girls aware of this possibility. We need to tell them, ‘Hopefully, you will never have to use this resource, but if you do, it’s there.’”
Does your community have a Safe Haven Baby Box?
Most likely not, but it can if you will follow the step-by-step process outlined on the Safe Haven Baby Box website. This is one of the best ways I can think of to serve people in need—both reluctant mothers and their newborns. If you are interested in getting a baby box in your community and would like to talk with Laverne Craig, comment on this blog to that effect, and I will put you in touch with her.
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