NEW PALESTINE — Approximately 50 people and first responders gathered outside of Sugar Creek Township Fire Department Station 42 just off of Gem Road as Pastor Hubert Nolen said a blessing for the installation of the county’s latest Safe Haven Baby Box.

“We thank you for all the donors and all those who have given to make sure this is here and available if needed,” Nolan said.

If one baby’s life can be saved, all the hard work will have been worth the effort, officials who dedicated the county’s third Safe Haven Baby Box said.

The dedication ceremony for the Safe Haven Baby Box was held Tuesday afternoon at Station 42, 473 South 500W, New Palestine. The firehouse is located just south of the intersection at Gem Road and US 40. It’s also about three minutes from the Marion County line and is right next to the Pennsy Trail.

Officials note, this Baby Box marks the 204th such life saving unit in the nation and the 115th in the state of Indiana.

Speakers at the dedication ceremony included Mariah Betz, Safe Haven Baby Boxes; Brandon Kleine, Fire Chief, Sugar Creek Township Fire Department; Jayson Combs, Sugar Creek Township Trustee; Linda Znachko, He Knows Your Name, Founder and Pastor Hubert Nolen, Hope Center Indy.

“Thank you to Sugar Creek Township for giving mothers another option, a safe option to surrender their baby,” Betz said.

Znachko noted the Baby Box is a life-saving option for at-risk moms. He told the first responders at the fire house that when they get the 911 call indicating a mother has dropped off her baby, it will be one of the best calls they ever receive.

“It is so important that we teach, train, educate and raise awareness for the Safe Haven Baby Box so that lives can be saved,” Znachko said.

A group of people going through last year’s Leadership Hancock County class decided to add another Safe Haven Baby Box in the county as part of their community group project. Jeremy Teipen, Hancock County Public Defender, was the spokesperson for the group who worked with officials from the Sugar Creek Township Fire Department to add the Baby Box to southern part of the county.

Kleine say they raised about $25,000 in order to add the life-saving unit to the county and thanked the numerous groups who donated to the cause.

“The baby box gives a mother an option to legally and safely surrender a baby in their time of need,” Kleine said. “This comes with the understanding that nobody’s crisis is the same, yet we can be sure to provide a positive option to our community.”

The other two Safe Haven Baby Boxes in Hancock County are located at the Vernon Township Fire Station No. 3, 600 Vitality Drive, Fortville and at 210 W. New Road, Greenfield, which is Greenfield Fire Territory Station No. 422.

“We’ve been supportive of this venture since day one when it was presented to us a while back,” Combs said. “We were able to do this with outside people, using no tax dollars.”

The Baby Box will be monitored 24/7, for 365 days a year in multiple ways with a fail-safe mechanism, meaning every baby dropped off will be cared for immediately.

Officials note, if a woman chooses to surrender her infant via the Baby Box, the door locks when the mother closes the box. Alarms alert the location a baby has been surrendered and personnel will retrieve the infant within five minutes. The infant will immediately be transported to the hospital for medical evaluation, and the baby will then eventually be given to an adoptive family.

Officials say that, in 2023, a record 17 babies were surrendered via Baby Box. Since the first Baby Box surrender in 2017, 42 infants have been placed in a Baby Box with the numbers increasing year after year. Officials said four infants have been surrendered via a Baby Box, so far in 2024.

Indiana’s Safe Haven Law passed in 2000 and allows a person to anonymously surrender an unwanted infant no more than 30 days old without fear of arrest or prosecution. The person is not required to provide any information as long as there are no signs of intentional abuse.

On December 28, 2014 a baby named Amelia was found abandoned and deceased in Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis. Baby Amelia’s footprint is featured in the Safe Haven Baby Boxes’ logo in honor of her legacy and is visible on the Baby Box at Station 42. She is the last infant found illegally abandoned and deceased in Indiana. Her footprint is motivation to ensure no more infants suffer the same fate due to abandonment.

“Baby Amelia was found about two miles from a fire station and, unfortunately, abandonment is usually a dead baby which is why these Baby Boxes are so important,” Znachko said.

Once a baby is examined and given any needed medical treatment, the Indiana Department of Child Services takes the baby into custody before placing the baby with a caregiver. The process then begins to find an adoptive family, which officials say usually happens within 30-45 days.

Officials with Safe Haven Baby Box staffs a 24-hour Safe Haven hotline (1-866-99BABY1), so parents can talk to trained professionals and get more information about their options for surrendering or how to get assistance to help them be able to care for their child.