First safe haven baby box in region unveiled

Published 12:03 pm Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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Unicoi County EMS Tuesday made available to the community a Tennessee Safe Haven Baby Box. This is the first box in East Tennessee to have a safe place to drop off a baby a mother may have chosen not to keep.

Members of the community came together to dedicate the box and offered prayers it will be used to save babies.

Nationwide, there are 240 Baby Boxes across the country, and this is the fourth Baby Box available in Tennessee. However, it’s the first one in Northeast Tennessee.

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Although each state has a Safe Haven law that allows mothers to surrender their infants at any time to a hospital, those behind the Baby Box claim that face-to-face interaction and lack of anonymity may be keeping mothers from doing it. Each year, dozens of infants are illegally abandoned, many of which are left to die.

Each box is an investment of about $15,000, which is typically funded by community members. That is the case in Unicoi County. Among the project’s supporters were the Unicoi County Ministerial Association, Centenary Methodist Women, Ladies Quilt Guild, and Unicoi County EMS.

Several community members helped install the Baby Box and donated funds. There was also a donation of hats and blankets from the Fishery Stitches Quilting Guild.

Lois Shults-Davis, one of the donors and a member of Centenary Methodist Women, said that as an attorney working in the courts, she knows the hardships some in East Tennessee face. She hopes the Baby Box will save infant lives. “With the proliferation of drugs in our area, we don’t know how many tragedies there have been. This is the time for Baby Boxes and to have that resource available for a mother that needs it and a baby that can be saved.” 

The Baby Box is located on a wall outside the Unicoi County EMS Office at 630 Oneega Avenue in Erwin. Once a mother closes the door, it’s locked from the outside. Inside the box, the temperature is regulated, and the baby is monitored and kept safe while a signal is sent to first responders, whose job is to evaluate the infant and transport it to the nearest hospital.

The Unicoi Box was dedicated in memory of two Carter County couples, Carolyn and Arvel Pate and Peggy and Howard Davis, who are the parents of Lois Shults-Davis and Mike Davis. The Davises are among the most ardent supporters of the Baby Box.


Photo Contributed

A Tennessee Safe Haven Baby Box has been made available at the Unicoi County EMS in Erwin. This is the first box in East Tennessee to have a safe place to drop off a baby a mother may have chosen not to keep.