Just when I thought I’d heard it all . . . . How many times have I started a blog with those words? Unfortunately, just when I think “they” have reached the bottom of the barrel, the bottom drops another foot.
I am currently working on a series of serious –scholarly—articles on Safe Haven Baby Boxes. The first should be ready soon. Thursday night I began to build a Zotero bibliography for that paper and added some Facebook video links to Safe Haven Baby Box blessing ceremonies. Some really outrageous claims are made during these blessings that a gullible public and incurious press gulps down since box promoters speak with a Christian accent and are all about “saving babies;” thus, making Baby Boxes exempt from rational public discourse and questions. Critics, including adoptee rights activists, child welfare professionals, and traditional Safe Haven law advocates are bum-rushed aside by the stampede to The Box, as irrelevant, jealous, and baby haters totally devoid of compassion.
The blessing in Mooresville, Indiana, is not much different from any other blessing except for a bizarre raison d’etre made by SHBB associate Linda Znachko. She is usually a guest speaker, but SHBB founder Monica Kelsey was called away on a family emergency so Znachko took the reins as Master of Ceremonies so to speak. Background: Znachko, is the founder and director of He Knows Your Name Ministries. which partners with Safe Haven Baby Boxes. She is the adoptive mother of a non-Safe Havened abandoned baby. Her organization spiritually adopts and holds funerals for discarded infants much like Garden of Angels and AMT Children of Hope. The latter, a pioneer leader in the Safe Haven movement strongly opposes Baby Boxes.
Znachko’s speech runs from 1:00-4:54. At 4:10.
Safe haven laws provide First Responders and the community with a proactive method to eliminate illegal adoptions.
Eliminate illegal adoptions?
I actually had to playback the video a few times to make sure that my ears weren’t deceiving me. Then I put on my good headphones. No, my ears weren’t deceiving me. She said “eliminates illegal adoptions.”
No known flinches.
I have no idea where this comes from. I have never heard any traditional Safe Haven advocate make such a crazy claim. Perhaps it was a slip of the tongue–or better yet–a Freudian slip. Or maybe Znachko was echoing the conspiracy theory developed by SHBB’s sister organization, Hope Box in Marietta, Georgia that pushes the idea that baby boxes will save newborns of sex workers and trafficked women from being sold into sex slavery at birth. (SHBB has never used this argument.). Or maybe she’s suggesting that dissatisfied adopters need to stick their forever adoptees into a box rather than re-homing her or him on Craig’s List.
Znachko, however, has made other questionable claims about Baby Boxes that call her veracity into question. She has stated frequently that boxes are a major initiative that has led to the decrease in the infant mortality rate in Indiana,. This is absurd and not true, though she probably believes what she says. And no: Indiana (as she implies) to the casual listener) does not average a boxed baby a month! Perhaps she meant traditional Safe Haven “relinquishment” in Indiana, but that number seems too high. Indiana, after all, is not California! The country? And if that number is any kind of Safe Haven number, why is this good? Znachko obviously needs to learn to choose her words more carefully if she wants to be taken seriously. Then again, the Baby Box movement can be big on word manipulation and fact elimination.
The SHBB movement is extremely harmful to the adoptee rights movement. True, only a handful of newborns (I hope) will be deposited in them, but the message is very clear and crucial to our struggle. SHBB’s tag lines are
Women demand anonymity
As the SHBB movement and message of anonymity spreads into legislatures in which we are working to abolish anonymity SHBB insists that women demand it. Framing Baby Boxes in a paradigm of life or death—murder or the box–is anti adoptee.. According to the Gospel of Baby Box, anonymous birth, relinquishment-by-box. and adoption are things that adoptees victimized by this ideology when they grow up will appreciate it. If it saves just one! Would you rather have ended up dead?
We all know how even one allusion to one abandoned or dead newborn subverts the restoration of the rights of 6 million adoptees to their records, history, and identities. Advocates for OBC and records access need to be aware of Baby Box incursions into their states—especially if they plan to run their own access bill. You may have a two-pronged fight on your hands.
By the end of next week Indiana, will have 48 boxes operational and around 15 more approved or proposed., Baby Boxes are also legal in Ohio, which has three placed near the Indiana border, and in Arkansas, where one is installed with one catch already, and another scheduled for opening soon. Baby Boxes are also legal in Pennsylvania, but none have been installed.
In 2018 the Michigan legislature passed a Baby Box bill, but it was vetoed by Governor Rick Snyder, a Safe Haven law supporter, who wrote in his veto statement:
I do not believe it is appropriate to allow for parents to surrender a baby by simply depositing the baby into a device, rather than physically handing the baby to a uniformed police, fire or hospital employee.
Baby Boxes are not a legislative freak. This year Baby Box bills were introduced in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, and West Virginia. The Florida bill passed the House but was held in the Senate Health Policy Committee; then postponed and withdrawn when the committee chair opposed the bill and refused to call a vote. The Georgia bill was on the track to passage when the legislature shut down early due to Covid 19. Bills in Kentucky, Missouri, and West Virginia died when their legislatures adjourned for the year. Illinois State Rep. Sara Feigenholz killed the bill there before it had a chance to move anywhere. The current New Jersey bills are still active, but identical bills have been submitted for several years and have never received hearings. Without doing some time-consuming research on individual state legislative rules, I am not sure of the ultimate status of bills left hanging or ignored or dead due to sine die but nothing will move this year. I am sure, however, that they will be re-introduced, and we will see more states jump in. We expect a Texas bill next session.
Let’s hope that SHBB pushers don’t attempt to sell their bills on a promise to stop illegal adoptions.
Originally published in The Daily Bastardette on October 10, 2020.