New Mexico’s first ‘baby box’ installed in Española

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ESPAÑOLA, N.M. — New Mexico’s first "baby box" has been installed at the main fire station in Española.

Soon, this could be another option under the state’s safe haven law, where someone can legally surrender an unwanted newborn baby without having to hand the baby to a staff member.

"We’re just trying to add another resource for women to be able to give up their child In a way that creates anonymity for them," Española Mayor Javier Sánchez said. "We know how difficult it would be to give up your child. But to have to answer questions or to have to look someone in the eye while doing that is really difficult."

Sánchez and Española Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief John Wickersham have been fighting to get a baby box in the city for years now, after a tragedy.

"Three years ago, we did find a baby in a trash can deceased, so that’s when we really were looking for different options, different ways, something that we could do to help try to raise awareness," Wickersham said. "One of my friends sent me a video on safe haven baby boxes. And I sent it to the mayor and I said, ‘hey this is something we should do here in the city,’ and it just grew from there."

There are currently 99 baby boxes in six states in the U.S. So far, 15 babies have been left in one. Each box costs about $10,000 each, but Safe Haven Baby Boxes raises donations to cover the cost – and donated the one for Española.

New Mexico is now the eighth state to install one.

The box won’t be operational for a couple of weeks – but under the state’s safe haven law, people can still walk into a safe haven site like a fire station and safely surrender a newborn.