Safe Haven Baby Boxes: How a simple action can save a child's life

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - One cannot place a value on a child's life.

Though sometimes the method of rescuing a child may sound ineffective, any effort to save a child's life is worth it.

"It's a huge boost when you get to look in the eyes of these children you save and know this is all worth it, the fight is all worth it," Monica Kelsey said.

Kelsey has bright eyes that shows her passion: saving the lives of newborn babies.

As the founder and CEO of Safe Haven Baby Boxes, she is seeing her dreams come true: Her baby boxes are on the way to another state-the state of Ohio.

A baby box is a safe place a troubled parent can leave their baby without fear of prosecution.

The first two were installed in Indiana.

Second only to Florida, Ohio has the highest number of abandoned baby case. It's a very personal mission to the one leading the cause.

"I'm sure that she is looking down smiling knowing that the child she saved is now saving others," Kelsey said, referring to her biological mother. "I was able to reconnect with my biological mother when I was 37,  and getting to know her literally changed the course of my life."

Kelsey herself was abandoned as a baby by her mother.

"She was 17-years-old. She was brutally attacked and raped and left along the side of the road," Kelsey said. "And then if that wasn't bad enough, she found out she was pregnant."

On April 19, 1973, Monica's mother abandoned her baby at a hospital in Williams County, Ohio.

Kelsey said meeting her mom for the very first time is one of her most precious memories.

"I walked up, and I knocked on the door and my heart was just, I was a wreck," Kelsey remembered. "I prayed for her my whole life, prayed for this day of meeting her, and hugging, and telling her how much I loved her. Because I know she loved me because she carried me to term and she gave me the life that I have."

Since meeting her mother, Kelsey dedicated her life to make sure no child is ever abandoned in a trash can or along the side of the street.

Where Safe Haven Baby Boxes are available, a desperate mother can come to a fire station, find the baby box on the exterior of the building, open it up,  and place the baby inside. A series of silent alarms will go off as the parent shuts the door, and walks away.

Paramedics will be on the way in minutes.

The box worked exactly as it should when a baby was placed in one in Michigan City, Indiana, on November 7, at 10:24 p.m.

Firefighters were there to receive the baby just three minutes later at 10:27 p.m.

"I'm elated. Him and I were like proud papas in the back of the ambulance," Mick Pawlik, fire chief of Coolspring Township Fire Department said. "By law, we have to ride in with this baby."

The baby was aptly named Hope, a feeling Kelsey has for the very state she was abandoned in.

Eight babies were abandoned in Ohio last year. Among them, a baby found decomposing in a car on May 15th.

"She definitely was not seen placing the child in the backseat of the car, so would she have used a baby box to keep this child safe?"

Sterling Rahe of the Toledo Fire Department says they care most about the safety of a child.

"It all goes back to the protection of the child," Rahe said.  "That's the biggest thing. So if this is going to be utilized in the future in our region or our department, we'll acclimate to it and make the most of it."

Safe Haven Baby Boxes is currently in talks with many locations in Ohio and more to come in Indiana.

The non-profit signed seven contracts for new locations in the upcoming months, while two boxes are active in Indiana right now.

The boxes are leased out, the fees agreed upon state by state.

Helping make all this happen is Theresa Bertke, Monica's biological cousin. They met for the first time when her mother was dying.

In their first conversation, both turned out to be paramedics. It was the beginning of a close connection between the two.

"Her passion became my passion, and I wanted to walk beside her in this and see her dream come true," Bertke said.

Kelsey's dream is to be there for women who feel as alone as her mom did decades ago.

"She was with me when I took my first breath, and I was holding her hand when she took her last," Kelsey said. "We're just here to protect these children and hopefully give this woman an opportunity to make a good choice. Because if she doesn't make a good choice, she's going to regret it for the rest of her life."

Safe Haven Baby Boxes's website allows parents to anonymously leave their medical information and family history. They also are allowed to leave contact information so the baby can find his or her biological parent if they choose.

Anyone interested in helping bringing more baby boxes to Ohio can do so here.

Follow WTOL:  

Download our app here

Copyright 2018 WTOL. All rights reserved.