Trinity Haack and Zoe Wituk were reunited yesterday at a Wheaton Park. These two toddlers share a story. Both were relinquished at safe havens in the Chicago area by mothers using Illinois’ Safe Haven Law.
Every year, their adoptive families get together and say that their little girls are living proof of the lifesaving law. They all feel a personal loss over Baby Hope’s death because Baby Hope, could have been another “safe haven cousin” for their little girls.
Baby Hope was found dead last August in a backpack in a wooded area of Wheaton. She was given her name, “Hope”, by the DuPage County Sheriff’s deputies.
Safe Haven advocates, including the Haacks and the Wituks, gathered Wednesday morning at Seven Gables Park to dedicate a tree and a plaque to honor Baby Hope.
Looking at Trinity and Zoe playing under the “Tree of Hope”, it’s easy to think about what could have been.
“She could have had a happy and healthy life,” Trinity’s adoptive mom, Christie Haack said. “Baby Hope’s mother could have also had a happy life without fear or guilt knowing that her baby was in the arms of people who love her.”
The plaque faces a playground and sits beneath an autumn blaze maple. It notes that hospitals, fire departments and police stations are safe havens where parents in crisis can legally relinquish their babies. Unharmed infants, up to 30 days old, also can be can be handed to safe haven personnel without fear of prosecution. “It is totally anonymous, totally free, totally safe,” said Susan Walker, a founder of Rest in His Arms, a Wheeling-based nonprofit group that buries abandoned babies. “There’s no questions asked. There’s no information that needs to be exchanged. And it leaves a baby with an opportunity for a great life with an adoptive family.”
The Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act was enacted in 2001. Since then, 119 babies have been left at safe havens another 79 babies were illegally abandoned and of those, 41 infants died, including Baby Hope.
Sheriff’s deputies were also in attendance and showed images of what Baby Hope’s parents likely look like. In October, police released composites based on DNA analysis from Virginia-based Parabon NanoLabs.
Detectives are still following almost 100 leads since her death on August 15, Sgt. Jeff Christiansen said.
“Somebody out there knows what happened to Baby Hope, and she deserves to rest in peace,” Christiansen said.
Rest in His Arms, the Wheaton Park District and Wheaton moms covered the cost of installing the plaque and tree. Walker and Bre Stetka, who reached out to the park district about the project, said that this is a reminder that there are safe alternatives for parents who cannot take care of their newborns.
“We hope it’s an enduring legacy to her and it can help to prevent the tragedy from ever happening again,” Walker said.