Editor’s note: This podcast contains graphic descriptions of infant neglect that might be difficult to hear. It is not suitable for children.
Linda Znachko, founder of He Knows Your Name Ministries discusses her work honoring the life and dignity of every child, and highlights the importance of initiatives like the Safe Haven Baby Box program to prevent unnecessary infant abandonment or death.
Linda reflects on how He Knows Your Name Ministries was born. “I was listening to the news and heard about a child’s body found in Indianapolis. They said, ‘Baby Doe was found in a dumpster wearing a diaper.’ That story turned my heart upside down. When I heard that, I thought, Doe is not a name, a dumpster is not a grave, and a diaper is not burial clothing. This was shortly after I had buried my mom, and given her a beautiful funeral and celebration of life. It was fresh in my mind that my mother is a child of God and deserved all that honor and dignity, and so did this baby. Yet, nothing about this baby’s situation looked like honor or dignity. So I called the coroner’s office and I asked a lot of questions.”
“I asked the coroner what we do in our county and our state for babies who are found like this, and they told me that they are put into a mass grave. I immediately thought about the injustice. We live in America, the most resourceful country in the world. We live in the 21st century. What do you mean there are mass graves in cemeteries all over this country where babies are put to rest with no name, no headstone, no honor, no dignity, and no celebration of life? I found that to be unacceptable. I said, ‘I want to take care of this baby.’ They explained that it was an ongoing criminal investigation. And I said, ‘I have nothing better to do but wait, so I’ll wait it out.’ I called them every Friday morning for 13 months. While I waited, I was learning so much more about abandonment at hospitals. I was learning about under-resourced families who could not take care of their loved ones in death, and God just kept shining the light on more and more need. So, He Knows Your Name was born.”
“I really want to see every single child be given a name in life and dignity in death. That’s what we endeavor to do at He Knows Your Name.” The body of baby Doe was eventually turned over to Linda, and she gave him a name and a proper burial.
Linda explains how we can better support abandoned babies. “We need bereavement care to be improved at hospitals and funeral homes. We need a spirit of generosity and community when we hear news like this all over this country, because it continues to be a problem.”
In her ongoing research, Linda says that she was the most surprised to learn how many babies are abandoned in hospitals. “Last year, I buried 10 babies who were abandoned at the hospital or the coroner’s office.”
Linda highlights the importance of the Safe Haven Baby Box program, which allows a parent in crisis to safely surrender their newborn if they are unable to care for their baby. “Safe Haven law is a wonderful law,” Linda says. “In Indiana, if an infant is 30 days old or younger, a parent can surrender their baby to a first responder or a hospital without any ramifications. They don’t have to give their name. They don’t have to give any information. They can just safely surrender the baby, no questions asked.”
The Safe Haven baby box is a safety device typically installed in a hospital or fire station that allows babies to be securely dropped off. “There have been 12 babies surrendered in boxes in five years… The babies are given medical care and treatment in under three minutes, and all12 babies have been adopted by a forever family. So this is a really great adoption option. We’re not just talking about the problem, but we’re talking about the solution.”
“The difference that Safe Haven baby boxes make is anonymity,” Linda says. “There are no cameras. There’s no tracing at all. [The parent dropping off a child] is equally in crisis. They are making a heroic decision to get a future for their baby. They’re putting the baby in the box, closing the door and silent alarms go off. The baby is retrieved from inside the building from a fireman, first responder, or a nurse or doctor at a hospital.”
Linda highlights the amount of fear and shame that comes with a parent’s decision to give up a child. “They don’t want to talk about their decision. They don’t want to be talked out of it. They don’t want to be asked any questions. So, the anonymity [of the baby box] is really answering a major social issue we’re facing today in our culture.”
If you or anyone you know is in a crisis pregnancy and needs a safe place to leave an infant, call 1866-99BABY1 (866-992-2291).