Well, the cat is out! Florida’s first Safe Haven Baby Box will open soon in Ocala. I knew a few days ago that it would be located in the Orlando area since SHBB founder Monica Kelsey did press interviews with Orlando media a few days ago, but the exact location wasn’t announced until today. Ocala is about 81 miles north of Orlando.
This is a short news story with video, but there are several things wrong with it. Since I’m writing some scholarly pieces that include a discussion of some of those errors—and contradictions within the movement in a larger context—I won’t elaborate right now, since I need to fact check and source, but the news story contains a huge statistical error that I can call out without any research:
Right now, there are more than 50 active baby boxes across the U.S. Nearly 100 babies have been recovered from those boxes since 2016.
One hundred babies have not been “recovered” from baby boxes around the country. That number is outrageous. Not that baby box advocates don’t play with stats. The looney tunes International House of Prayer cult-church affiliate Hope Box in Metro Atlanta, an organization that links newborn sex trafficking with discard claims that 478 babies were abandoned in the state in 2017, making Georgia “second to California in abandonment.“ According to the official Safely Surrendered Baby Data webpage of the California Department of Social Services, however, one known newborn was discarded in 2017 and it survived. Hope Box told me in an email it got that number from the National Safe Haven Alliance, but NSHA, which opposes baby boxes, has no such statistic posted and disclaims the number in a personal email to me. The State of Georgia has no such number either.
Nine newborns have been left in Safe Haven Baby Boxes since November 2017. Eight in Indiana, (two at the Cool Springs Fire Station in Michigan City, and one each in Hammond, Crown Point, Seymour, New Haven, Decatur Township, and another at an unknown location.) One newborn has been dropped into the Benton, Arkansas box. One of the Indiana babies is now in an open adoption.
I am going to take a chance and say the hundred babies report was the reporter’s error, not mis- dis-information from Kelsey.
Kelsey has claimed elsewhere that her organization has assisted in the safe havening of about 100 newborns, so I think that’s where the reporter’s number came from. Still, that is a very dangerous number to float without clarification and correction. It’s wrong, Not only does it conflate traditional safe haven cases with baby box cases, the number “validates” and popularizes baby boxing as a legitimate way to handle problematic and hidden pregnancies and birth and the social and economic situations that surround the baby box “choice” as boxers like to call it. I have seen this one hundred number show up in other stories recently and no one at SHBB is calling for a correction since it suits the agenda. Unfortunately, an incurious media is immune from asking real questions and ends up a pusher of “feel good” solutions to complex problems.
Originally published in the The Daily Bastardette on November 21, 2020.