HOBBS, New Mexico (KMID/KPEJ) – Tuesday, the City of Hobbs hosted the blessing of the Hobbs New Mexico Safe Haven Baby Box. The box was installed at Hobbs Fire Department Station 1.
The push for a Safe Haven Baby Box in Hobbs, started after a newborn was thrown in a dumpster last year and outraged many in the community.
Baby boxes have slowly been appearing across the nation and New Mexico is a proud representation of that growth, now hosting two baby boxes and looking to expand.
City officials in Hobbs said this is beneficial to their entire community and other communities should look to take a page out of their book.
Looking back at what started this conversation in Hobbs specifically, back in January of last year, a video circulated of 18-year-old Alexis Avila throwing her newborn baby in a dumpster.
This past month, Avila has since been convicted of Attempted Murder in the First Degree and Child Abuse Resulting in Great Bodily Harm. She was then sentenced to 16 years in prison.
The good news, the baby she threw away survived and even celebrated his first birthday in January.
His story is pushing many to help other children across the US.
“What we failed to do, is to do it in public school, so Ms. Avila would’ve known that there are options,” stated New Mexico’s State Senator, David Gallegos. “That’s my fault, as a legislature, that’s my fault.”
Now a year after this video, The City of Hobbs officially has their own Safe Haven Baby Box, installed in their fire department to ensure this doesn’t happen to any other child.
Under the Safe Haven Law, infants less than 60 days old can be surrendered to a fire station, a hospital, or an EMS station. No questions asked, no criminal charges.
Senator Gallegos emphasized, “there’s a lot of them that have the facility, they still come in and hand deliver the baby, that’s great. On those few instances, that they do not, out of shame, out of fear, out of guilt, whatever. That they can drop that child off, and we will care for that child.”
These Safe Haven Baby Boxes, started in 2016, allow these infants to be dropped off with complete anonymity, which the owner and founder, Monica Kelsey, said was the most important aspect of creating these boxes.
“It saves a child’s life and it saves a mother from prosecution. That’s truly what it’s all about! Anonymity matters to women. When a woman doesn’t want to walk in and hand the child to a person, now Hobbs has an alternative to that. And so, this baby box, I have no doubt is going to save lives,” she smiled.
After Kelsey learned she herself was a baby who was abandoned as an infant, she has been fighting ever since. She said this is the best option for mothers who have nowhere else to go.
“Now, they can use this box, if they want too. And so, it is bringing hope to Hobbs. I mean, however you look at it, this story of this abandoned baby, is bringing hope to a community that desperately needs it,” she said in reference to Avila’s child.
This box specifically, has been installed at fire station 1, which the department said is the better option of four stations, providing a safer, more private option.
Hobbs Fire Department Fire Chief, Barry Young has had a lengthy training process to understand his newest responsibility.
He said this location is way better than any other spot in the community, “We don’t want people to think that somebody’s watching them, seeing traffic and I’ll tell you, that if it was at a busy station, more than likely, they’re not going to stop at that station to put a baby in the box.”
He said, of course, the overall hope is no child is abandoned.
“We always hope that those type of events, don’t happen, that’s our hope, that we don’t experience that and we hope that no body is going through something so tough that they have to experience something like that,” added Chief Young.
Senator Gallegos has been become very passionate about this topic and protecting the children of his community since Avila threw her infant away, with a focus on educating the public.
“It’s our failure as a legislature, to teach our children that they have options,” he encouraged.
This box becomes just the second in New Mexico, following the first in Espanola, but the 145th in the nation, and Kelsey and Safe Haven Baby Boxes only look to expand and save future lives.
“These women are trusting us now, they’re coming to us, they’re utilizing these boxes, knowing that they’re getting anonymity,” she grinned. “And that is exactly what is going to happen in New Mexico once we get more boxes around, which are coming, right now we have six contracts, I don’t want to say where they’re going, but you will see baby boxes popping up in New Mexico probably the next 90 days.”
Now Kelsey also mentioned her wish to expand in Texas as she said Texas is the number on state in America for infant abandonment, after she said 33 babies in the last year were abandoned in Texas alone.