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Wisconsin’s governor signs new baby box law

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(The Center Square) – Wisconsin now has a baby box law.

Gov. Tony Evers signed the new law which gives local governments permission to install boxes that allow parents to anonymously surrender newborn babies.

The governor said the idea is to “expand safeguards” for children in the state.

“This bill provides a solution that will hopefully keep newborns and infants safe from harm,” Evers said.

Cities, towns or villages can now install a baby box at a fire station or police department, or any other public building that is manned around the clock, 365 days a year.

Rep. Joel Kitchens, R-Sturgeon Bay, who authored the legislation, said Wisconsin has long allowed parents to surrender newborn babies. But they had to do it in-person.

Baby boxes, he said, will allow parents to hand-over babies anonymously and with no questions asked.

“If a parent finds themselves in a hopeless situation with nowhere to turn, the child could be in danger,” Kitchens said, “Now, parents in Wisconsin may have an anonymous and safe way to turn over custody of their child.”

Kitchens said he began the push for the new law after a newborn baby was found dead in a field in Whitewater.

“If a baby box saves one child, it’s worth the investment,” Kitchens said.

Rep. Ellen Schutt, R-Clinton, said the death of that baby in Whitewater was a wake-up call.

“Wisconsin’s 2001 Safe Haven Law carried a stigma, especially in small communities, because parents were afraid others will find out they gave up their children,” Schutt said in a statement. “I am glad Wisconsin will now be able to provide parents in distress an option to complete anonymity when making the difficult choice to surrender their newborn.”

Currently 14 other states have baby box laws on the books, including Iowa.

The new law allows local governments across Wisconsin to install the boxes. It does not require them.

The law does, however, require all baby boxes to be temperature controlled, and have an alarm that sounds as soon as the box is opened and closed.

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