Every child is a blessing, but not all mothers have the resources to care for their children.
And that’s precisely what Safe Haven Baby Boxes in Indiana are for: to provide moms in crisis with a secure place to surrender their newborns with no shame and blame.
These baby boxes installed at fire stations paved the way for Tessa and Keegan Higgs of Paoli, Indiana, to complete their family.
Parenthood was once just a dream for the couple, but it is now the wonderful reality they are living.
“I can’t imagine anything better than having Jax and Nola. Like, I just can’t imagine life without them,” Tessa said about her children.
The family of four they have now is all thanks to a mom who was brave enough to recognize that her baby would have a better life with another family.
In 2019, a baby box brought Tessa and Keegan their final blessing—Nola, who is now three years old.
The program allows struggling moms to hand over their babies safely with no judgment.
“She’s my hero. I mean, if I could meet her (Nola’s biological mom) today, I’d give her a big hug and, you know, I couldn’t thank her enough,” said Keegan, a volunteer firefighter in Paoli.
The Higgs had been trying for years to build their own family. They were fostering their eldest child, Jax, when they learned that a baby was surrendered in a baby box in northern Indiana.
The child’s mother, whose identity is concealed under the Safe Haven law, chanced upon a baby box billboard and called the hotline to ask for help.
Tessa said that Nola was clearly very much loved by her biological mom. The baby was born at a healthy weight, was free of substances, and was wrapped in a warm towel.
“We have the towel. It’s the only connection we have to her biological mom. She also breastfed her baby before surrendering, so we know she was loved,” she said.
Out of 400 individuals who applied to be Nola’s parents, the Higgs were ultimately chosen after a panel interview with nine people with DCS.
A week later, they brought Nola home. Both kids are now officially adopted.
“I couldn’t imagine our life without Nola. So, I mean, our family, in my eyes, is complete!” Keegan said.
These happy endings are the reason Monica Kelsey founded the program.
“When I look at my own life, being abandoned as an infant, in an era where there was no safe haven law, and now we’ve created this to allow these mothers the anonymity that they want, it is very fulfilling to see the life that I saved simply because my life was saved,” she said.
“Seeing Nola grow up happy and healthy and beautiful has been part of my mission all along.”
As someone who has experienced firsthand how Safe Haven Baby Boxes helps families, Keegan is doing his part to ensure the mission continues.
Last fall, he helped install the first baby box at a volunteer fire department in Paoli.
In July 2021, the law changed to allow volunteer departments to install a baby box if they met specific criteria.
“They have to be within a mile of a hospital or EMS station, have to have a four-minute response time and there has to be a camera on the inside of the box, so a camera’s on a baby at all times until someone can get to the child,” Tessa explained.
Since 2016, 19 babies have been left in Indiana baby boxes, and 121 have been surrendered to a firefighter or a nurse in person.
There are currently 110 boxes in the state, with the most recent one installed this month in Mitchell. The Higgs were present for the installation ceremony.
Click on the video to learn more about the Higgs family’s baby box story.