Safe Haven Baby Box hits legal snag, but Long Beach officials not concerned
LONG BEACH, Miss. (WLOX) - Long Beach is the only city in Mississippi to approve an ordinance to allow a Safe Haven Baby Box, a device for infant babies to be legally surrendered by a parent.
In the five months since passing the new law, there’s a legal sticking point keeping it from moving forward.
“The thing that is holding us up is the indemnification clause that by state law, we cannot have that in a contract,” said Long Beach Mayor George Bass.
The clause, in effect, could hold the city liable for any potential issues.
On Tuesday, the Board of Aldermen approved the contract, but Bass can’t sign it until the legal issues are resolved.
He doesn’t see it as an insurmountable problem.
“We’ve dealt with this on a number of different items throughout my tenure of being mayor,” he said. “I’ve witnessed this. Our attorney strikes that; sends it back to their attorney; they strike it from their end; send it back; we sign; everything moves forward.”
The energy behind the effort is Caitlin Kelly, a nurse who has fostered and adopted children.
“This seems like an easy lift,” she said. “Mothers are in crisis everywhere, and especially now than ever with Roe v. Wade changing in over 14 states. I think now is the time to jump on this and say, ‘Hey, we took away the abortion laws here, what are we going to do next to help?’ "
Kelly is working through an Indiana company called Safe Haven Baby Boxes.
She said it is needed to avoid face-to-face surrenders.
The climate-controlled box is installed in fire stations or police departments with 24-hour staff.
Alarms are installed to notify when the door is open and when the baby is placed in the bassinet.
“There has not been a child that has not been retrieved within three to four minutes. Ever,” Kelly said. “There have been 24 babies that have been safely surrendered. Just one two weeks ago in Kentucky.”
The box will be supported by private funding and administered through Safe Haven Baby Box, but the fundraising can’t happen until the contract has been signed.
“There’s one thing I’ve learned is that it’s not going to be my timing. For me, my personal belief, is that it’s all God’s timing. I think that Long Beach is moving again, is backing this 100% and is moving as quickly as we can to try to get this for women in crisis and young mothers,” she said.
The state already has a Safe Haven law, in which children can be surrendered within seven days after birth, but Kelly wants it expanded to at least 30 days.
House Bill 1318 also allows counties to approve the Safe Haven Baby Boxes without having cities pass an ordinance.
Right now, it has passed the House and is now in the Senate committee.
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