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How Do You Save Unwanted Babies?

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A pastor in South Korea carries a baby, left a day earlier at a "baby box" at his church. Indiana, a U.S. state, is offering the same service. (Reuters Photo)
A pastor in South Korea carries a baby, left a day earlier at a "baby box" at his church. Indiana, a U.S. state, is offering the same service. (Reuters Photo)

From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.

On a cold December day in 2014, the body of a newborn baby girl was recovered in Indianapolis, Indiana. The body was found off a snowy path in a public park.

A medical examiner later ruled that the girl was born healthy. She died, Fox News reported, from being left in the cold and from animal bites to her arms and legs.

The girl now has a name -- Amelia Grace Hope. Linda Znachko named the baby. She is with Safe Haven, a religious organization that buries abandoned children.

Znachko believes Amelia Grace did not have to die. She says that the mother could have felt she had no other choice.

'And it was really just two miles away from a fire station. And you know, if that mother -- maybe an under-resourced, desperate mom who was terribly afraid -- would have been able to just find her way just two miles down the road, she may have been able to surrender that baby, and the baby could be alive today.'

That is because there was a safe place not far from where Amelia Grace was found.

Since 2008, legal guardians throughout the United States may surrender babies 45 days or younger to any emergency medical service provider. They can do this without fear of being charged with a crime. Yet, across the country, about 150 babies each year are left in waterways, along roadsides, and in waste cans.

Many, many years ago, a woman named Monica Kelsey was abandoned as a baby. Now, Kelsey works as a firefighter. She said she felt she had to do something. She found the answer while visiting a church in South Africa, which had a baby safe.

'It was for mothers who didn't want to be identified ...'

Keeping the mother’s name private has led to safe child surrenders in many countries, including South Korea, China and Canada. It did not take long for Kelsey to launch Safe Haven Baby Boxes in the U.S.

The baby boxes are made of metal, but have soft padding on the inside. Each has a climate-controlled thermostat. This device changes the temperature inside the box, based on the weather conditions outside.

When a baby is placed in the box, it activates an infrared light and series of silent alarms. These alarms notify emergency personnel within a minute.

Monica Kelsey met Linda Znacho because of the case of baby Amelia. Together the women worked to try to persuade Indiana’s state legislature to change the Safe Haven law. They wanted to protect people who use the boxes and those dropping off babies in person.

The Indiana Department of Health opposed the plan. In a report to the legislature, it warned against using a system with no policies to protect the newborn left inside the box.

Znachko disputed the department’s warning. She explained what really happens when an abandoned baby dies.

'I offered them the reality that I've seen the autopsy results that are written about the conditions of these babies when they are found. It's so tragic. It's so hard to read. That even if a baby were to die in the baby box, it would be an attempted rescue on their life.'

Safe Haven Baby Boxes made its program stronger by adding an automatic lock to the outside of the boxes. This ensures that only emergency personnel could remove the newborns from the interior door. The legislature unanimously amended the law.

Monica Kelsey’s husband, Joe, is the mayor of Woodburn, Indiana. He approved a plan for setting up the first baby box at the local fire station.

'I'm very proud that Woodburn is the first city to have Safe Haven Baby Boxes and if one life is saved during the whole term that I'm mayor, it will be the best thing.'

Each box costs about $2,000. A civic organization, the Knights of Columbus, paid for the first 100 boxes.

Kelsey gets emails every day from people asking for a box in their hometown. The next three locations have already been chosen. They are in high abandonment areas in Indiana.

'Our goal is 10 percent of these babies that are being abandoned [will be left in the boxes]. That's where we're going to start. I think through the years, though, that number is going to grow. And eventually, hopefully save 100 percent of the babies that are being illegally abandoned.'

The baby boxes came too late to save Amelia Grace Hope, but she left her mark in her own small way. Her footprint is used in signs for the program.

I’m Anna Matteo.

Erika Celeste reported this story for VOANews.com. Anna Matteo adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

Would this work where you live? Do mothers have many options? Please leave us a Comment, and post on our Facebook page.

Words in This Story

abandon v. to give up with the intent of never again claiming a right or interest in

under-resourced adj. provided with insufficient resources.

desperate adj. giving little reason to hope

climate-controlled thermostat -- n. a device that keeps the temperature average, not too warm and not too cold

tragic adj. causing strong feelings of sadness usually because someone has died in a way that seems very shocking, unfair, etc.

unanimously adv. agreed to by everyone

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