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Healthy Newborn Placed in Tennessee’s First ‘Baby Box’

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A healthy newborn estimated at about 30-minutes old was the first to be placed in a Tennessee “Safe Haven Baby Box” in Knoxville on Saturday, the city’s fire department reported.

According to a post on the Knoxville Fire Department’s Facebook page, the male newborn was placed in the container attached to Fire Station 17 on Western Avenue at 12:19 a.m. Saturday.

“The station crew of three immediately went to the box and found a healthy baby boy inside,” the department said in the post. “The child was not injured and was quickly removed from the box for further evaluation. The station crew called for an ambulance to transport the child to the hospital.”

A first of its kind in the state, the “Safe Haven Baby Box” was installed at the station on Feb. 17 as an alternative for an anonymous parent to use in a “time of crisis.”

This was the first time the device, which is available around the clock every day of the year, was used since its installation, the department said.

“The whole purpose of this box is to be a resource for our community, so that a mother or a parent that is in crisis and doesn’t know what to do with a child, has a place to go,” Assistant Chief Mark Wilbanks told WATE-TV in Knoxville.

A 2001 state law “allows mothers of newborns to surrender unharmed babies to designated facilities within two weeks of birth without fear of being prosecuted. As long as the baby is unharmed and the child is surrendered within two weeks of birth, the mother – or parents – will not be prosecuted and is assured of complete confidentiality.”

An August 2022 grant from the East Tennessee Foundation’s Craig Fund helped finance the box’s installation, according to the foundation’s website.

In a February video announcing the device, Wilbanks said it is “an extremely safe piece of apparatus” that stays warm and alerts firefighters when a baby is placed into the inside bassinet without having to interact with the individuals leaving the child.

“You don’t have to do anything but walk up to the box. Simply open the handle and place the baby inside,” he said in the video. “It’s completely anonymous. You don’t have to tell the firefighters that you’re here.”

Wilbanks said the firefighters at the station would care for the child until the Department of Children’s Services can come and take charge of the infant.

“We are very thankful to have this as a resource to someone who may be in crisis and not know what to do with their child,” he said.


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