Downtown Fort Wayne now has a safe location for mothers to surrender their babies when taking care of a child becomes too big of a burden.
Lutheran Downtown Hospital's Safe Haven baby box became officially functional at 3 p.m. Friday during a blessing ceremony.
The box is built into the wall of the new hospital, which opened Nov. 13.
The Safe Haven Baby Box people had contacted the hospital just before Twilla Lee joined the hospital as CEO in January 2021. Lee supported the idea and said it was an opportunity to plan for the box while the new building was being constructed.
The box is heated and equipped with an alarm that alerts hospital staff when a baby has been placed in the box.
“A baby box like this keeps the infants safe,” Lee said.
When someone opens a baby box, an alarm goes off, said Monica Kelsey, founder of Safe Haven Baby Boxes. After it closes with the baby inside another alarm goes off, and it can't be opened again from the outside.
The box is in the wall by the hospital's new emergency entrance, at the southeast corner of Jackson and Main streets.
Kelsey said the setup gives the person leaving the baby anonymity and an opportunity for the mother and baby to have a better life.
The longest a baby has waited in one of Safe Haven's boxes is four minutes and 20 seconds, and the shortest time was 30 seconds. Kelsey said.
Dr. Nick Leonowicz, emergency services director for Lutheran Downtown, said his staff will be ready for a child – and to administer needed medical care – 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
This will be the third Safe Haven baby box in Allen County. The organization has 107 boxes, including in Ohio, Kentucky, Arkansas, New Mexico and Florida.
Kelsey said the organization's baby boxes in New Haven and Woodburn have had babies relinquished to them.
The one at the New Haven Fire Department's Central Station was opened Dec. 19, 2019, and had two babies left there in 2020. The first was 21 days after it opened.
The box at Woodburn City Fire Department was working in April 2016 and had a drop off in 2019.