Chippewa Falls City Council approved the very first ordinance in the state for a safe haven baby box

Published: May. 1, 2023 at 6:36 PM CDT
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CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (WEAU) - Chippewa Falls is now the first city in Wisconsin to pass an ordinance for a safe haven baby box.

On April 18th, the Chippewa Falls City Council approved the safe haven baby box ordinance in a 4-1 vote.

City council member, Heather Martell, said this doesn’t necessarily mean that a baby box will be made available in the city.

“The safe haven baby box ordinance is an ordinance that would allow for the city or private organizations, such as HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital, or some other hospital that’s open 24 seven, to create and install a baby box or a baby hatch to better facilitate the anonymity of our safe haven laws,” Martell said.

Wisconsin law already allows for parents to surrender their newborn child, under 72 hours old, at fire stations and hospitals by handing the infant to a trained professional, without fear of legal consequences. A baby box would allow for complete anonymity during a surrender, as a parent can simply place the infant in a box located outside of a safe haven site without having to talk to personnel.

“Nowhere does it say that it needs to be a person to person handoff for a relinquishment,” Martell said.

However, Robin Schultz (RN), HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital director of emergency services, said that a person to person hand-off can ensure the health and safety of an infant and its mother.

“The luxury of having that handoff at the hospital is that we can take them in right away and do a proper medical screening and assessment,” Schultz said.

Martell said providing a safe haven for parents who need to give up their infant is growing more urgent.

“What we’re currently seeing is a crisis when it comes to the family and our ability to make the difficult choices that we have,” Martell said.

She said more cities in the badger state are now showing interest in the safe haven baby box ordinance.

“I’ve received several calls from individuals and organizations in the east part of the state and down in Madison who are also looking to bring this ordinance to their areas. So it is setting a precedence.”

Martell said she hopes that safe haven boxes will eventually be available throughout the state.

If residents of Chippewa Falls are interested in installing a safe have baby box in the city, they can petition the city council for budgeting. Otherwise, a private organization could also help to accommodate for one.