State Successes: Arkansas introduces kits for Safe Haven Baby Boxes

  • Published May 31, 2023

This month we sat down with one of our newest EMSC program managers, Kellie Tolliver, EMT of Arkansas, to talk about a partnership in their state with Safe Haven Baby Boxes (SHBB). The SHBB program was founded in 2015 to give mothers and parents a safe and legal option to surrender their baby anonymously. EMSC Arkansas has recently built on this partnership through the creation of SHBB kits, which provide necessary equipment for transporting and taking care of the immediate needs of the baby.

What is a Safe Haven Baby Box?

“All 50 states have a Safe Haven Law. This means that a parent can safely and anonymously surrender a baby to hospitals, fire departments, and police departments through a face-to-face surrender. The Safe Haven Baby Box device is installed into an exterior wall of a hospital or fire station. This box allows surrendering a newborn without face-to-face interaction. This type of surrender is currently permitted in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Maine, North Carolina, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Virginia.

The way the device works is someone opens the exterior door of the baby box and places the infant inside. When they shut the door, the box sets off a silent alarm notifying 911 dispatch that a baby has been placed into the Safe Haven Baby Box. At that point, the fire department and EMS personnel are sent to the location and retrieve the baby. The baby is transported to the nearest hospital, is given a medical assessment, and treated if necessary. Child protective services is then notified and takes custody of the baby. The baby is then placed in a loving and safe home.”

How did Arkansas begin providing supply kits for the SHBBs?

“Supplying these kits to the already established SHBBs in Arkansas was the brainchild of Amanda White, our previous EMSC Program Manager. She passed this project down to me, and from there, we have made her vision come to life!

On April 26, 2023, EMSC in Arkansas distributed Safe Haven Baby Box kits to two of our local fire departments - Jacksonville and Hot Springs. This was a huge success for the EMSC Program in our state and has started to put us into the spotlight.

Monica Kelsey, who started the Safe Haven Baby Box Organization because of her lived experience being abandoned at a hospital as a newborn, was highly impressed with our kits and expressed gratitude for the kits we put together. The EMSC Program in Arkansas now has enough kits to supply every fire department with a SHBB. Monica has even reached out to the Arkansas EMSC Program asking for assistance for other states with Safe Haven Baby Boxes.”

How do these kits help?

“These kits assist local fire departments by providing necessary equipment for transporting and taking care of the immediate needs of the baby. This makes the call less stressful for first responders knowing everything they need is right there ready to go. The local fire departments love the kits and have expressed gratitude for the Arkansas EMSC Program and utilizes our pediatric training and education, growing our community partnership.”

What is included in a SHBB Kit?

“SHBB Kits include:

  • Infant Car Seat (1)
  • Pediatric Pulse Oximeter (1)
  • Pediatric Stethoscope (1)
  • Neonate Stethoscope (1)
  • Baby Beanie (1)
  • Newborn Diapers (2)
  • Size 1 Diapers (2)
  • Pack of Wipes (1)
  • Warming Blankets (2)
  • Swaddling Blankets (2)
  • OB kit (1)
  • Pacifiers (1)
  • Pediatric Non-Rebreather (1)
  • Pediatric Nasal Cannula (1)
  • Thermometer (1)
  • Roll of Tape (1)”

You said this program really helped to put Arkansas EMSC into the spotlight, can you tell us more about that?

“Right after Jacksonville’s Baby Box Blessing/opening, Monica Kelsey went to social media and gave a huge kudos to Arkansas EMSC for stepping up to the plate by providing the needed equipment for surrendered babies to be taken care of and safely transported to the hospital. These social media posts sparked interest and fire departments, EMS services, and members of the general public are asking about this great program.”

How did EMSC get involved in this great program? Can other states do the same?

“Yes, other states can do the same!

Monica encourages other states with SHBBs to do the same and has asked for volunteers to help provide these kits. Additionally, I have reached out to EMSC Program Managers (in the states with SHBBs) to put together similar kits. When Amanda started this project, she ordered enough supplies for thirteen kits, approximately $4,000. Arkansas EMSC has allocated funds to this project in the new cycle again, so we can order more supplies for these kits. Arkansas now has 17 Safe Haven Baby Boxes and kits in the entire state with those numbers expected to rise this year.

Any last thoughts?

“There are still babies being illegally abandoned in other states to this day. Babies that could have been anonymously surrendered had that state allowed Safe Haven Baby Boxes to be installed. The laws are constantly changing in each state! It is important to keep up with your state's Safe Haven Law.

Mothers [and parents] are scared about their identity getting out and the stigma that goes along with abandoning a baby. The Safe Haven Baby Box provides a legal and anonymous option to surrender their baby. No shame, no blame, and no questions asked.”

Learn more about Arkansas EMSC here. Learn more about State Partnership Programs here.