Española community hoping to bring in ‘Safe Haven baby boxes’ to protect unwanted newborns

New Mexico

ESPAÑOLA, N.M. (KRQE) – People in one New Mexico city are working to change a longtime state law to protect unwanted children. They hope to help desperate moms surrender their newborns easier, which could lead to fewer abandoned babies.

“Sometimes we’re paralyzed by not knowing when to start and when to intervene,” said Javier Sanchez, mayor of Española.

In Española, they’re working to answer those questions when it comes to helping the community’s children. They’re starting at birth, focusing, specifically, on the Safe Haven Law.

“It’s a law that’s already out there but a lot of people don’t know about it,” said John Wickersham, president of the Española Firefighters Union.

A baby 90 days or younger can be dropped off to a firefighter, officer or hospital worker and the mom will not be charged with abandonment. It reduces the chance of an unwanted baby ending up dead.

“The Safe Haven Resolution is a great opportunity for us to bring kids into the world and to also recognize that the moms who are doing it, we really need to commend them and not condemn them,” said Sanchez. “A lot of times we wind up blaming people and I think this is a fresh start to bring people into the world that we can love and make a part of our community.”

However, they say it’s a law rarely used in the community. They’re hoping to change that, passing a city resolution to raise awareness that this is an option and it’s okay. The resolution will help fund more education and information in the community, through pamphlets, posters and even getting the resources into schools.

“This is something that is near and dear to my heart because I was adopted and I would like to thank my mother for actually doing the right thing and giving me up,” said Wickersham. “I’ve had an amazing life and I would just want to thank her for doing the right decision and just let mothers know that this is a different option.”

The Española community also hopes to make a difference through this law at the state level. They’re working to amend the Safe Haven Law during this legislative session.

“We’re trying to amend it to include Safe Haven Baby Boxes so the mothers have a different option,” said Wickersham. “Four states currently have it in the law. We would be the fifth state.”

Attached to a public building like a firehouse, the boxes are temperature-regulated. They signal a silent alarm for nearby first responders when a baby is placed inside, with a typical response time of three minutes.

“This is something that’s non-judgmental. It’s not a bad choice,” said Wickersham. “We’re hoping that the governor will hear this and make it a priority.”

It’s a choice that could mean a better life for a new baby. When Española was first considering the Safe Haven Resolution, a baby was found in the trash. That helped escalate getting the resolution onto the city council’s agenda.

The resolution passed in Española and Rio Arriba County and is now on the agenda in Taos. Those behind the resolution hopes it continues to make it to other large cities in the state like Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces. Wickersham says those interested in more information can reach out to them online.

Safe Haven Baby Boxes are only in a couple of states right now and say they’ve had dozens of legal, safe surrenders. Wickersham hopes that becomes the case here in New Mexico, as well.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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