Bentonville, Arkansas: 1st Baby Box Dump. Not a time to celebrate

Bentonville, Arkansas City Fathers announced today that a newborn was dropped off recently in the city’s #3 Fire Station Safe Haven Baby Box. The Bentonville Box is the first, and so far only Baby Box in the state. The box was funded in large part by the local Knights of Columbus.The city is agog with joy.

Few details are available yet, but tomorrow the town will host a press conference featuring Safe Haven Baby Box Founder Monica Kelsey flying in from Indiana. where she has already installed 21 Boxes and at least another 26 have been approved or proposed. Invitations have been sent to local business leaders, state representatives, members of Congress, and Governor Asa Hutchinson. Nothing like politicizing a personal tragedy, especially in a big election year.

For adoptees, the baby-in-the-wall party day is not something to celebrate and rejoice over. It is a day of sadness.

Ms. Kelsey says of Baby Boxes, “It’s so much more than a box in a building. It’s so much more than giving women an easy out.”

 Did she actually admit The Baby Box is an “easy way out?”

Of course, Monica is correct.  It is much more.

The  Baby Box is the act of severing a child from its roots. The severing of family. The severing of history. The severing of identity. The severing of the civil rights of the child in order to make someone else’s life easier. and more convenient.  “No one will ever have to know.” The Baby Box is child abuse.  It is violent. It is lies and deceit. The Baby Box is the beginning of lifelong state-sponsored abandonment trauma,. 

The  Baby-Boxed will be propagandized to be grateful. Your mother loved you so much….We’ve seen how well that has worked out for generations of secret adoptions, secret adoptees ,and secret parents. The only beneficiaries of secret and not-so-secret adoption-abandonment issues are therapists.

A Baby Box drop-off is not easy, yet it is indeed promoted as “an easy way out. It is not an “easy way out” for The Boxed.  And it is certainly not an “easy way out” for the parents who use The Baby Box. Maybe it seems that way, at first, but in the end? No! The  Baby Box creates perpetual shame, misery, ad self-loathing..

The Baby Box does nothing to alleviate the problems that lead to its door.

I have been re-reading the  Los Angeles County Inter-Agency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect (ICAN)  reports on Safe Haven and infant discard and neglect published between 1999 and 2018. Earlier reports are no longer online, but you can read each separate 2009-2018  report  here. They are the type of study every state should do and doesn’t. Since each report adds to the previous report, the most up-to-date information is at Safely Surrendered and Abandoned Infants in Los Angeles County, 2002-2018.  I don’t know why no report has been issued for the last two years and will drop ICAN a line. I suspect funding is an issue.

These are remarkable documents that I have never seen used in scholarly work, much less referred to in Safe Haven and Baby Box news stories  The data was compiled by healthcare and child welfare professionals, and statisticians with no ax to grind either way, though no one is about to recommend that the Safe Haven law be dropped. Although self-admittedly limited in scope due to anonymity and secrecy in California’s Safe Haven law that makes a full accounting impossible, the reports paint a desolate picture of self-reported parents–usually mothers–who use the law.  None of them expressed homicidal tendencies, the reasons de entre of Safe Haven laws. What they did express was an inability, due to structural social, cultural, and economic rot, sexism and implied racism that inhibits their ability or a belief in their ability, to care for their own babies.

While there is a long list of reasons why mothers have turned to anonymous legal abandonment, by far the largest number in the Los Angeles studies are due to unplanned/denied/concealed pregnancy including pregnancy by rape. The second major factor is economics: poverty.  Children simply aren’t affordable for many (and some of the Safe Haven users already have children they say they can barely afford to care fo row.). Users are unaware or afraid of available services. These factors are fueled by shame and fear. Shame of sex, sexuality, and rape. Fear of what parents, boyfriends, or husbands will do. Fear of authority, figures, and procedures especially in social services and immigration.  Shame of being unable to care for their own children.

Of course, The Baby Box does nothing to address these issues, and other issues such as family dysfunction, substance abuse, and domestic violence. Drop the baby in The Box and it all goes away.  Only it doesn’t.go away.  It’s not even a bandaid.

I am reminded particularly of the August 27, 2002, Polk County, Florida case where a new mother said she implemented Safe Haven to protect her baby from an abusive partner. A few days later after leaving the baby at the ER, the hospital received an anonymous letter and a medical history purportedly from the mother suggesting names for the baby and expressing an interest in visiting him at a later date. She explained that she was the mother of an 18-month old living in an abusive situation, and afraid to leave, “I feared for the safety of the little boy I was carrying and hid pregnancy from everyone.” Nothing changed for this mother upon her return to her violent home after the “surrender” except the new burden of knowing she’d lost a child that she could never talk about. or grieve in a healthy manner. Mothers, children, and families deserve better than this.

Safe Haven Baby Boxes published a new ad today.

How does sticking a baby in a hole-in-the-wall end shame for abandoning mothers? How does being dumped in a hole-in-the-wall end shame for adoptees as they grow into adulthood and beyond?  It doesn’t. The Baby Box exacerbates the dysfunctional, circumstances that created the concocted need. The Baby Box creates the shame its promotors say want to end.


Both Bastard Nation and the National Safe Haven Alliance oppose Safe Haven Baby  Boxes and have worked in various states to stop implementation. Please like my personal project Stop Baby Safe Haven Drop Boxes on Facebook.

I am pretty sure the Bentonville celebration will be posted on Facebook tomorrow.  If so, will post a link to it and comments.





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