One lucky baby girl became the daughter of the very man that found her.
On January 2, 2023, Florida firefighter Vincent, whose last name was not shared for privacy reasons, was on duty for what seemed like a normal shift. In the early morning hours, he was awoken by dispatch alerting him that the alarm for the Safe Haven Baby Box located at the fire station where he worked had been activated. Vincent recalled:
“I got out of bed, walked over with another firefighter to go check it to see if there was anything in there and when the lights came on and I opened up the back door to the box, Zoey was laying in there.”
Vincent, who had been a firefighter at that location for eight years at the time, said that the infant was the first baby to ever be placed in the Safe Haven box since it was installed at the MLK First Responder Campus in West Ocala.
Safe Haven Baby Boxes offers temperature-controlled baby boxes at hospitals and fire stations in multiple states.
The Indiana-based non-profit Safe Haven Baby Boxes provides a safe location for parents to legally and anonymously surrender a child at hospitals and fire stations. When used, the boxes trigger an alarm which is set up to automatically alert emergency responders. Monica Kelsey, founder and CEO of Safe Haven Baby Boxes, told GMA:
“A baby box is an extension of the safe haven law, and the safe haven law has been around since the year 1999, when it started in Texas. And that basically said that any parent who doesn’t want or can’t care for their newborn child can legally surrender their child at any designated safe haven location and walk away, no questions asked.”
All 50 states currently have Safe Haven Laws, but the age limits for when it is acceptable to place a baby in a Safe Haven box vary. The purpose of these laws is to “prevent these babies from being abandoned at places where they may come to harm.”
The Safe Haven box at the fire station in West Ocala is the only one so far in the state of Florida.
Vincent thought he might never see the baby again.
When Vincent found the baby, who is now named Zoey, after she had been surrendered, he began a medical evaluation on her and called for ambulance transport to the hospital. He recalled:
“I hand the baby off to the nurses so they can do all the stuff they do at the hospital and I pulled the doctor aside and I had asked him like, ‘When’s the caseworker gonna get here? Because I would like to adopt her.’”
While Zoey remained in the hospital for a mandatory observation period, Vincent left a detailed note for the caseworker explaining that he and his wife were certified to adopt and had been trying unsuccessfully to have children for nearly a decade.
“I didn’t know whether or not the doctor was going to hand my note all the way to the case manager. I honestly just really thought that that was gonna be it and we weren’t gonna be able to see her again.”
Vincent and his wife Katy’s prayers were answered and they were able to bring Zoey home with them just a few days later. By April 2023, they were her legal parents.
Vincent shared his story publicly to send a message to Zoey’s birth mother.
Vincent says that he and his wife are so thankful that Zoey’s birth mother “chose to give Zoey a life and that she chose right, for whatever reason, putting her in that box, and that she gave us a family.” He added:
“It’s not about me. It’s not about my wife. It’s not about our journey to have kids. It’s not about me being a first responder. It’s about this beautiful little girl who was given the chance of life, and that she’s been adopted, she’s loved and hopefully her birth mother sees it and recognizes that she did the right thing. She doesn’t have to worry anymore. Her daughter’s taken care of and is loved beyond words.“