The Crestview City Council unanimously approved installing a Safe Haven Baby Box during its regular meeting Monday night. This will be the first baby box in Northwest Florida and the second in the state.
- The baby box will allow parents to anonymously surrender an infant by placing the child in the temperature-controlled box. Once closed, the exterior door automatically locks and alerts are sent to 911 dispatch.
Councilmember Cynthia Brown first proposed the idea, citing Florida’s new abortion law and growing socioeconomic pressures. She sees it as a “humanitarian project” to give desperate parents a safe option.
Brown contributed $7,500 from her discretionary funds to cover initial costs. Additional fundraising from the community will help pay the remaining expenses, estimated at up to $30,000 for pre-installation, installation and the first year.
- Future costs will be $500 annually for recertification and maintenance, plus $500 for alarm monitoring.
Mayor JB Whitten shared his emotional experience learning about Ocala’s baby box, the only one currently in Florida. A firefighter who retrieved an infant from the box was able to adopt the baby with his wife.
“The one time it gets used, it is worth it,” Whitten said. “To talk to the guy that actually took the baby and adopted [the child], it was stunning to me. It’s very emotional.”
The city plans to install the baby box at Fire Station 1 due to its central location and direct connection to dispatch. Box alarms will notify 911, with firefighters responsible for responding.
Councilman Ryan Bullard questioned whether the box could truly be anonymous with cameras present. The mayor clarified the box will not record the drop-off, allowing the parent to leave undetected after surrendering the baby.
While the boxes might not be used on a regular basis, the council ultimately agreed the life-saving potential makes the project worthwhile. The baby box provides an alternative to abandoned infants being found deceased.
“This is a reasonable proposal,” said Mitchell Reed, who spoke in favor. “It’s a transparent effort to allow and facilitate in the moment of crisis to save a baby.”
Reed shared statistics on abandoned infants and emphasized the baby box as an alternative option.
- “If the existence of this resource were known, this could become an alternative to abandonment, homicide, suicide, et cetera. Since 2000, according to the state of Florida legislative analysis in 2021, more than 384 babies had been abandoned in the state alone,” Reed said.
City Manager Tim Bolduc outlined how the project could be implemented, noting the fire station’s round-the-clock staffing makes it feasible.
- “If you guys decided to do it, we’d either allocate the funds or raise the funds for it. We’d get it done as soon as we got it in and hired a contractor to put it out,” Bolduc said.
The Safe Haven Baby Box allows desperate parents a secure way to surrender an infant, while providing immediate medical care.
Here’s how it works:
The parent opens the exterior door, triggering a silent alarm to 911 dispatch. After placing the newborn in a bassinet inside, a second alarm sounds to confirm the baby’s presence. The outer door automatically locks to ensure security.
Within minutes, first responders arrive and take the infant to the hospital. A staff member can access the bassinet from inside the building to swiftly transfer the baby.
- The baby box has multiple alarm systems to alert personnel, which are tested weekly. The box is also checked periodically even without activations.
The anonymous drop-off is legal under Florida’s Safe Haven law, which aims to prevent dangerous abandonments. The surrendered baby enters a closed adoption process.
“This is an opportunity. Our city hall is located in one of the poorest parts of town,” said Bolduc. “It’s also a part of town where we constantly battle with things like drug addiction and so the probability of this does exist.”
The city will now move forward with allocating funds and finalizing installation plans. If you are interested in helping with fundraising costs, please contact City manager Tim Bolduc for more information.