Safe Haven Baby Boxes could be coming to Wisconsin

Published: Apr. 15, 2019 at 8:36 PM CDT
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Republican State Senator Dale Kooyenga, who represents Wisconsin’s 5th District, plans to present a bill that would make it safer for parents to give up their unwanted newborns. The idea comes after a baby was found dead in the parking lot of a Marshfield hospital last week.

“I suspect that we will have broad bipartisan support,” stated Senator Kooyenga. “I want to make sure we are doing whatever we can do to help the health of children in Wisconsin.”

The bill called “Safe Haven Baby Box” would allow unwanted newborns to be dropped off in a secure safety box outside any medical center or law enforcement agency or fire department that would have them. If the bill becomes law, Wisconsin would become the fourth state in the nation to have Safe Haven Baby Boxes; following the states of Indiana, Ohio, and Arizona.

“This would be a safer place for a child to be dropped off and it would be equipped with silent alarms that would notify first responders within 30 seconds,” Sen. Kooyenga added. “These boxes would keep the baby warm and the baby would only be in there for about a minute or two.”

However, according to local law enforcement agencies, having Safe Haven Baby Boxes could interfere with Wisconsin’s current Safe Haven Law.

“Wisconsin already has a Safe Haven Law,” explained Marathon County Sheriff Scott Parks. “I understand what this bill is proposed to do, but there are a lot of things I would like to see fleshed out before this bill moves forward.”

Currently, Wisconsin law allows parents of newborns to anonymously surrender their child within 72 hours of birth to a medical center, fire department or law enforcement agency without facing criminal prosecution or being asked any questions.

“We also provide services for people who can’t make it to our locations. You can call 911 and you can turn your unwanted child over to emergency responders with no questions asked,” Sheriff Parks said.

Another concern with the Safe Haven Baby Boxes is if someone were to drop off a child that is harmed or past 72 hours of birth.

“If someone drops off a baby that is 1-years-old, will there be previsions or do we just accept the child,” Sheriff Parks further explained.

According to Senator Kooyenga, the bill plans to be introduced to state lawmakers within the next few weeks.