CHICAGO (CBS) – Chicago police on Monday were still looking for the person who abandoned a baby in a sports bag outside a Near North Side fire station over the weekend.
Firefighters found the baby dead on Saturday.
READ MORE: ‘Right to the ATM’: As Chicago-area thieves target ATMs, store owners work on solutions to fight crime
With so many questions unanswered two days later as police continued to investigate, CBS 2’s Tara Molina spoke to an organization that has been working to prevent this for years.
The newborn was left in a duffel bag Saturday outside the fire station at 1044 N. Orleans St. The door to the fire station is clearly marked to show it is a safe place.
But that only applies where there is direct contact and communication with fire station staff – something we are told has not happened.
There was no call for help or bell outside the barracks. According to the Chicago Fire Department, whoever left the newborn in the duffel bag did nothing to reach the people inside.
State law requires that people dropping off newborns try to reach those inside. A law in place for more than 20 years in Illinois allows a person to give up a child anonymously and with legal protection.
But where a physical transfer to staff does not occur, it is outside the law and considered illegal abandonment. In this case, it resulted in death.
Since the Safe Haven Act was passed in 2001, over 145 babies have been brought to Safe Haven locations. More than 85 babies were illegally abandoned and more than half of them did not survive.
As for a camera pointing at the door of the fire station, Chicago police won’t say if it works or if it’s part of their investigation.
We know firefighters were present when the baby was found early Saturday. It is not known when the baby was left outside.
We’ve confirmed that the Orleans Street Fire Station is the headquarters of the city’s air mask service, where the fire department stores and maintains important equipment – so we’re told it’s often left unstaffed while staff maintain other stations.
A spokesperson said that is why in-person contact is part of the law. But that’s not the case everywhere in the United States
READ MORE: The family of an Amazon delivery driver were killed when the tornado hit a warehouse in the state’s downstate to file a lawsuit
Baby box programs provide electronically monitored boxes that allow complete anonymity under the Safe Haven Act in other states.
“A woman doesn’t have to walk in just any face,” said Monica Kelsey of Safe Haven Baby Boxes. “It’s heated. It’s chilled. It locks when a child is placed inside. But the important thing is that the box automatically calls 911 on its own.
We showed you the boxes used in neighboring Indiana, where 92 have now been installed.
“Since we launched the baby boxes, we haven’t had a dead baby in our state,” Kelsey said.
Fourteen babies have been rescued through the boxes, and another 115 have been brought face to face since Kelsey – a retired firefighter and doctor – started the program in 2016 just to provide a very last resort.
“The last resort options for these moms, like this mom from Chicago, who clearly didn’t want to see anyone; who clearly wanted anonymity, but didn’t get it,” Kelsey said, “and now we have a dead baby and probably a mother who is going to spend the rest of her life in prison.
Currently, there are also boxes in Ohio, Kentucky, Arkansas, Florida, and Arizona. So why not Illinois?
“We tried to get the law passed in Illinois — and in fact the folks at Safe Haven who lead Safe Haven outreach and education are completely against it,” Kelsey said.
Indeed, the Illinois Save Abandoned Babies Foundation is against the use of boxes. The main reason is that they think physical contact is important.
Dawn Geras of the Save Abandoned Babies Foundation of Illinois released a statement, quoted here in part, that describes why her organization thinks baby boxes are a bad idea:
“Adding boxes to the Safe Haven program, while well intentioned, is a mistake. It opens a Pandora’s box with unintended consequences. There is strong opposition to the idea of placing the boxes in hospitals, the police or fire stations.
“Some of those reasons are:
“1) The boxes take away a mother’s ability to be offered medical care and support services. About 25% of parents who come to a shelter, planning to use the Shelter Act, when given the opportunity to talk about options, chose to make an adoption or parenting plan.
“2) The boxes eliminate any possibility of personal contact with a person, which means that the parent is completely alone, which contributes to the frightening. She doesn’t have the comfort of placing her baby in anyone’s arms. Instead, the idea that what she’s doing is “wrong” and something she should be ashamed of is reinforced.
“3) Boxes create confusion as to where and what is considered refuge and what is a box. There are many possible bad outcomes. Imagine a mother coming to the hospital, looking for a Box, but the hospital doesn’t have one. She becomes frustrated, confused and leaves the baby alone, abandoned. Will the baby survive? The mother is bleeding, needs medical help which she does not receive. What happens when she is found dead of a hemorrhage?
“4) Many women seek a safe delivery of their baby in a hospital. Baby Boxes will confound hopes for a safe birth by suggesting that its only option is to leave the baby in a Box.
“5) Many states provide an information package to the transferring parent. The packet may provide a request for medical information and explain parental rights under the law. The use of boxes prevents parents from receiving this important information.
“6) The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has called for a ban on boxes in Europe and urged countries to provide family planning and other forms of support to tackle the root causes of dropouts , according to spokeswoman Elizabeth Throssell.
“7) Great concern came from the Nassau County Police Department and the New York Police Department’s Office of Special Operations known as Homeland Security. Even before 9/11, departments had serious concerns that pipe bombs were planted inside one of them by terrorists and caused catastrophic injuries to doctors, hospital staff and first responders. stakeholders. In today’s environment, we have seen attacks in Boston, California, New York, and many other places in the United States. If a terrorist carries out a coordinated attack on a hospital, police or fire station, key emergency personnel will be killed or seriously injured. Indianapolis, Indiana Homeland Security lists over 8,500 potential terrorist targets. “Boxes” will be added to the list as a high-risk location, making them an “easy target” and affecting costly liability insurance increases to those locations.
“8) And the cost! Each box costs around $10,000 to build and install. There are also monthly maintenance fees.
“9) Most hospitals, fire departments and police stations are brick or stone buildings, which makes installation almost impossible. These buildings are built as the strongest structures in the districts. It would be extremely expensive to drill a hole in one of these buildings to place a box in a prominent place that could be easily found by a woman in crisis. Does the state have the money for this?
“Think of what this money could do if it was put to good use for an awareness campaign instead. How many more babies and mothers would be saved by reaching all women?
“Shelter programs have saved more than 4,000 infants since its inception in 1999. The numbers are growing every year as more people learn about the law. What is needed are awareness campaigns, NOT Baby Boxes.
So could a box have been a last resort in this case? The lawyers said we won’t know until we get the autopsy results.
NO MORE NEWS: Chicago Weather: Low 20 Monday night; The arctic cold front arrives Wednesday morning
Police said Monday evening of the case: “No one is in custody. The investigation is still ongoing. There are no updates at this time.“