Between 2017 and 2019, more than 200 infants were illegally abandoned in the United States. One group fighting to see that number eventually reach zero is Safe Haven Baby Boxes, an Indiana based nonprofit organization. There are currently 30 Safe Haven Baby Boxes spread across four states: Indiana, Ohio, Arkansas and Arizona.
A Spring Hill resident has recently made it her goal to see Tennessee added to that list, and has started an online fundraiser to see one installed in Spring Hill.
Ginnie Sweeney, a Spring Hill resident since 2007 and owner of Sweeney Hill Farm, told the Home Page she had come across a news article one day about a baby being surrendered in Indiana via a Safe Haven Baby Box. Intrigued, Sweeney eventually stumbled across the SHBB website, where she discovered that since the first Safe Haven Baby Box was erected in Indiana in 2016, there had not been a single dead abandoned infant in the state.
“That statement made me think of the babies that were abandoned and left to die prior to the boxes being installed,” Sweeny wrote in a message to the Home Page. “It’s a thought that made me tear up several times. The thought just kept coming back to me. I wanted to know if Tennessee had any SHBB. I was sad to find out that it doesn’t.”
Founded in Indiana in 2016, the nonprofit provides safe infant deposit boxes that can be installed at fire stations or hospitals. While most states do have safe-haven laws that allow for mothers to give up children at hospitals or fire stations, doing so still requires the mother to have a face-to-face interaction — something SHBB argues, could be a deterrent for some mothers.
Sweeney said she was well aware of Tennessee’s safe-haven laws, but argued that the face-to-face interaction mothers face when surrendering a child is often a strong enough deterrent as to lead mothers to abandon children by other, less safe means.
“I think Tennessee’s Safe Haven law is great,” Sweeny wrote. “Thus far, 103 newborns have been saved by it. However, the law requires that the baby be given to a staff member of the facility. There will be a certain percentage of mothers who simply aren’t willing to hand off their baby if it requires doing so face-to-face. These mothers desire absolute anonymity so much that they just won’t do it. They’d abandon their child in an unsafe area first. Having boxes available would fill the currently unmet need of absolute anonymity for these women and thus save the lives of some infants.”
Sweeney said that while the Safe Haven Baby Box would do well to serve any Spring Hill mother looking for a safe way to surrender her child, the fire station on Port Royal Road would be ideal due to its close proximity to I-65, as it could be easier utilized by mothers from across the greater-Nashville area.
“While a Spring Hill mother might use the box, it’s just as likely, if not more so, that someone from the surrounding area would drive here to use it," Sweeney says. "I think Tennessee needs to have at least a half dozen Safe Haven Baby Boxes dotted across the state, so that no mother is more than an hour or two drive away from one.”
Sweeney’s online fundraiser has a goal of $13,000, and has currently amassed $45 in contributions. Those interested in donating or learning more about the fundraiser can visit the page online by clicking here.