ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The new arrival of Finnish style baby boxes at the Minnesota State Capitol grounds is a celebrated first step for the Twin Cities non-profit organization, Babies Need Boxes.
Founder and executive director, Danielle Selassie, stood before lawmakers at a Minnesota house hearing, testifying about a new bill that would bring 3,000 baby boxes to mothers and babies in need across Minnesota.
“What would be so special and unique about this is Minnesota would be the very first state in the U.S. to have a state funded baby box program for their moms,” said Selassie.
The baby boxes are modeled after Finland’s program to reduce infant mortality rates, can save mothers in need, especially mothers in transient situations who don’t have a safe place for their infant to sleep.
The boxes are lined with mattresses to double as a bassinet. It also includes essential baby care items from diapers to breastfeeding kits that many mothers cannot afford when their baby arrives. Selassie knows how important the option can be for struggling mothers.
“When I was 19 I was in a situation where I found myself pregnant, and at the end of the day I decided not to raise my child, but I know what it’s like to be in a chaotic situation. I’m in a position to give back,” said Selassie.
Selassie’s organization has distributed about 500 baby boxes so far and her growing organization caught the attention of Rep. Dave Pinto, DFL-St. Paul, who immediately wanted to help.
“I feel like it sends a message to our society about how we value life, how we value babies,” said Rep. Pinto.
He also wants to understand why babies of color die at higher rates in Minnesota. Pinto said that 11 American Indian babies out of every 1,000 die, while nine black babies die. The Minnesota statewide average is four deaths of every 1,000 babies.
“Women of color, American Indian women, and low income women get less prenatal care than other Minnesota women do. And so part of this effort with baby boxes, is to work with organizations that represent those women, to study those disparities and figure out what can we do to make sure every woman is getting adequate care,” said Rep. Pinto.
The plan proposes a $500,000 program to bring 3,000 boxes to low income moms and received positive lawmaker interest, although no vote was taken.
To Selassie, the bill would bring a true miracle for Minnesota.
“I started this as a way to show moms who are in need, specifically adolescent mothers, that we care about them and want them to be successful,” said Selassie. “These boxes are a really a symbol that Minnesota cares about the success of all mothers.”