Are Baby Boxes Good or Bad?
· Boxes deny the opportunity for a mother to be offered medical care and supportive services. About 25% of parents who come to a Safe Haven, initially planning to use the Safe Haven Law, when given the opportunity to talk about options, choose to either make an adoption or parenting plan.
· Boxes strip away any chance of personal contact which means the parent is completely alone, contributing to her being frightened. She does not have the comfort of placing her baby into the arms of anyone. Instead, the idea that what she is doing is ‘bad’ and something that she should feel ashamed about is reinforced.
· Boxes add confusion as to where and what is considered a Safe Haven site. There are many bad possible outcomes to this. For example, a mother comes to a hospital, looking for a Box but that hospital doesn’t have one. She becomes frustrated, confused, and leaves the baby alone, abandoned. Will the baby survive? The mother is bleeding, in need of medical help that she does not get. How will people feel when she is found having bled to death?
· The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has called for a ban on the boxes in Europe and has urged countries to provide family planning and other support to address the root causes of abandonments, according to spokeswoman Elizabeth Throssell.
· Technology fails. What happens when the box fails?
· What happens if a baby who has been abused, neglected or needs immediate medical attention is left in a baby box? If a baby is found dead in a baby box who is liable?
· Another concern comes from the Bureau of Homeland Security. Even before 911, the department had grave concerns about pipe bombs being placed inside one of them by terrorists and causing catastrophic injuries to doctors, hospital stuff and first responders. There have been attacks in various cities, most recently in Washington, DC. If a terrorist makes an attack on a hospital, or police/fire station, key emergency personnel will be killed or critically wounded. Boxes will be added to the list of high-risk locations as a “soft target” and greatly increase liability insurance.
· Cost! Each box costs some $20,000 to $30,000 to install. Then there is the continued cost of monthly maintenance and yearly inspections. Who pays for this? Can you imagine how many more babies would be saved if that kind of money was instead spent increasing awareness to the existing law?
· There is a conflict of interest when the group lobbying for the boxes owns the only patent for the boxes. It has also been asked if they are violating their nonprofit 501(c)3 status with the amount of time and money they are spending lobbying for baby box laws.
· There have been half a dozen times when twins were relinquished under the Baby Safe Haven law. Do 30 days old twins fit into a box? Almost 57% of the country allows for relinquishing an infant 30 days old up to one year.
CHICAGO BAR ASSOCIATION (CBA) OPPOSES HB 3753
This bill would amend the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act (‘Safe Haven Law’).
The CBA strongly opposes this bill because:
• It does not protect the rights of birth mothers and infants.
• It would pose significant safety risks to both birth mothers and infants.
• It is an extremely costly “solution” when Illinois law is already working well.
The 2001 Safe Haven Law prevents newborns from being abandoned unsafely (e.g., in
alleyways/trash cans) by providing a safe, anonymous method of relinquishment, and
immunizes the relinquishing parent from liability for abandonment. The infant must be handed directly to personnel at a hospital, fire station, police station or emergency medical facility. Trained staff must verbally provide information to the birth parents as to their
rights, where the birth parent can go to receive counseling and medical care, and how to
provide the child’s medical and family history information anonymously via the Illinois
Adoption Registry. According to the Illinois Save Abandoned Baby Foundation and
DCFS, over 125 infants have been relinquished anonymously since its passage (most recently 5 in 2020, 7 in 2019, and 9 in 2018). After relinquishment, infants are placed by licensed child welfare agencies into permanent adoptive homes. According to DCFS,
nearly 30% of parents relinquishing under the Safe Haven Law in the past 5 years filed petitions for return of custody, obtained counseling and with the exception of one case, regained custody of the child.
OVERVIEW – REASONS FOR OPPOSING HB 3753
• HB 3753 permits drop off of infants in boxes (so called newborn ‘safety devices’) at
a relinquishment facility without any human interaction with trained health care
• HB 3753 flies in the face of Illinois public policy to provide relinquishing birth parents
information about their rights, medical/counseling services, and future exchange of
information with the child in the most effective manner -through trained professionals.
• HB 3753 poses numerous safety risks to both infant and parent because of the
elimination of interaction with a health care professional.
• HB 3753 creates confusion as to how to relinquish an infant in the event there is not
an available box.
• HB 3753 poses privacy risks.
• HB 3753 is dehumanizing both to newborn and parent.
• HB 3753 requires the costly purchase and maintenance of “baby boxes” even
though the current Safe Haven Law is working successfully.
DETAILED REASONS FOR OPPOSING HB 3753
1. HB 3753 Contravenes Established Illinois Public Policy to provide essential
information to birth parents: Numerous sections of the Adoption Act, the Child Care
Act and the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act reflect Illinois public policy that birth parents should have information about their rights/responsibilities as to relinquishments, termination of parental rights, counseling, and exchange of information,
including anonymous exchange of critical medical information and family history with the adoptee. HB 3753 departs from this policy as follows:
a. Section 30 of HB 3753 eliminates the requirement to advise and provide information to birth parents as to their right to relinquish anonymously under the Safe Haven Law and their ability to petition the court to regain custody after an infant is deposited in a box. The fact that 30% of relinquishing parents in Illinois ultimately petitioned to seek custody under current law shows that the law is working effectively to educate birth parents of their rights.
b. Section 35 of HB 3753 eliminates the requirement on how to exchange information,
including through the Adoption Registry, and information about counseling
services—this also goes against Illinois public policy and potentially deprives the
adoptee (and adoptive parents) of critical information.
2. HB3753 Creates Safety Risks for Infant and Parent: The box is called a ‘newborn
safety device’. This is a misnomer; the safest relinquishment requires direct contact
between a trained professional and the birth parent. Section 16 of HB 3753 only
requires that the box placed in a hospital be in an area that is conspicuous and visible
(undefined) to staff and is “in” the hospital (no alarm is required to advise staff that a
baby has been deposited). For fire stations, police stations and emergency medical
facilities, HB 3753 merely requires that the box be placed ‘at’ the site, has an alarm, is
conspicuous and is tested only once a month. Moreover, the bill grants immunity for
liability except for gross negligence, or willful/wanton misconduct. Inherent risks in
relinquishments via boxes as described by HB 3753 as opposed to handing the baby to a trained professional include:
a. Danger of power failure (boxes rely on electricity) or other technical failure, including climate control.
b. Possible delay if staff is attending to other emergencies and cannot hear or attend to
the alarm when someone ‘deposits’ the baby—e.g., even if a box is in a conspicuous
place, if hospital staff are dealing with multiple trauma injuries, they might not see the
deposit (again no alarms are required in hospitals); in the case of a fire station, if the
staff are responding to a fire and other alarms/sirens are going off, etc.
c. Inability of health personnel to determine if the parent (or infant) may need medical
care immediately since they are not present. A parent’s need for care has occurred
in the case of relinquishments in Illinois under our existing law.
d. Danger of non-staff intervention: Someone in the visual area of the box (who is not health personnel) could see a birth parent deposit an infant and leave, and that person may take the baby out (or harm it) before staff can get to the box.
3. HB 3753 creates confusion as to how to privately relinquish an infant and may
lead to infants being unsafely abandoned. Not all facilities will be able to afford a
box. The cost of baby boxes is high—at least between $15,000-17,000 not including
maintenance – and under HB 3753, installing a baby box would not be mandatory. Thus,
it is likely that many safe haven relinquishment locations will opt not to purchase them (as was the case when only a proportionately small number were purchased in Indiana). Yet there is usually a lot of publicity surrounding these laws (as there was in Indiana
when the law passed there). This creates confusion/inconsistency for birth parents not
knowing which facilities have them and which don’t — do they drive/walk around
looking? Where do they drop the baby if they thought there would be a box and there
isn’t one? In addition, the bill creates the potential of:
a. Inability of health personnel to determine immediately if an infant deposited is
less than 30 days old: A parent could try to relinquish an older child in a small
box built for newborns.
b. Lack of privacy: in this time of ubiquitous cell phones, a parent depositing a baby
in the box risks a stranger videotaping or photographing the deposit and posting
the video/photos online.
c. Improper use of baby boxes for other deposits: in Indiana, a baby box was used
to deposit a litter of kittens. Also, national organizations have expressed
concerns about safe haven facilities being ‘soft targets’, susceptible to boxes
being used for explosives, etc.
HB 3753 is an unnecessary expense given the effectiveness of Illinois’ existing Safe Haven Law
under which over 125 infants have been safely relinquished. Further, it contravenes
fundamental Illinois public policy requiring that birth parents be informed of their rights; poses
numerous safety risks to both parent and infants; causes confusion; and jeopardizes the privacy
of birth parents.