Fort Dodge to have state’s first Safe Haven Baby Box

FORT DODGE — The Fort Dodge Fire Department will have the first “baby box” installed in Iowa.

Last November, after a man and woman from Fort Dodge were charged in the death of their newborn, people in the community started working to get a “Safe Haven Baby Box” in Fort Dodge. Iowa’s Safe Haven law lets parents leave a baby at a health care facility, without fear of being prosecuted for abandonment, but the legislature this spring voted to expand it — so babies may be left at places like a fire station that are staffed around the clock with first responders.

Representative Ann Meyer of Fort Dodge says getting things to this point took the support of the entire community. “Complete team effort. That’s probably why it went so smoothly and so quickly because so many people were working on it,” Meyer says. “No one wants to see what happened, happen again.”

Investigators say a woman who gave birth in a Fort Dodge apartment used meth to ease the pain of childbirth, but she and the baby’s father drowned the baby in a bathtub out of fears the child’s cries would prompt neighbors to call police, who’d discover the meth. Both have pleaded not guilty to first degree murder.

The baby box that will be installed in July in Fort Dodge is climate controlled and designed as a safe place to abandon a baby. At least 134 Safe Haven Baby Boxes are currently installed in six other states.