Questions remain after newborn baby was found dead in a duffel bag in the snow at the unmanned Near North Side fire station

Some key questions remain after a newborn baby was found dead in a duffel bag in the snow outside a Near North Side fire station that is often unstaffed.

With investigations continuing, it is unclear how long the boy was left outside in freezing temperatures on Saturday morning, or if the child was even alive when he was placed on the steps of the services building. Chicago Fire Department air masks at 1044 N. Orleans Street.

Facility crews were busy filling air tanks at other fire stations that morning and didn’t discover the baby until around 5 a.m. when they went to shovel snow, a said Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford.

The infant’s autopsy results remain inconclusive pending further testing and a police investigation, a spokeswoman for the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office said Tuesday.

Chicago police have had no updates on the case.

Part of the problem is that the child was left at an air supply maintenance facility that is not manned 24 hours a day, Langford said. His crew are often away at other fire stations servicing air tanks and masks, he said.

“They were so in and out that morning that no one heard the doorbell,” he said.

There’s a bell on the door and cameras in the area, but they’re not departmental ones, Langford said.

A “haven of peace” sign is fixed to a side door of the station, out of sight of the main garage doors of the building.

Langford said people need to understand that babies must be released in person under the shelter law.

The baby “needs to be passed from person to person … to a person or a member of staff,” Langford said. “If the person left the child there, and we don’t recommend that, and called 911 to say the child is there, someone would have been dispatched.”

“We are trying to convey that you need to make contact. Ringing a bell is not making contact. You have to physically see someone and hand over the child,” Langford said.

Dawn Geras, head of the Save Abandoned Babies Foundation, said there’s a good reason the law says a baby must be handed over to someone at a fire station, police station or hospital. .

“This baby may need urgent medical attention,” she said. “It makes no sense to leave a baby outside in freezing temperatures for a while and expect them to survive.”

By law, infants 30 days or younger can be released without question.

Deaths of abandoned babies have declined since the law was passed in 2001, Geras said.

At least 144 babies have been brought to shelter sites, Geras said. 87 others were illegally abandoned and 51% of them did not survive.

Nationally, 4,505 babies have been released under similar shelter laws, Geras said.

“Our mantra has been, from day one, if we can save a baby, it’s worth it. And, along with that, when there’s another dead baby, we know our job isn’t done.

Information about the law is available on the Save Abandoned Baby Foundation website: https://saveabandonedbabies.org/

In the most recent case, Geras said there were many unknowns, including whether the baby was stillborn before being left at the station.

“This is an opportunity to wake up the city of Chicago, the state of Illinois, the entire country, that baby shelter laws exist to prevent this from happening,” Geras said.

Both his foundation and the Chicago Fire Department oppose “baby boxes,” where parents can leave their infants and authorities are alerted. There are dozens of boxes in Indiana, and some people say they are the next step in protecting shelters.

But Geras and Langford say they remove in-person contact between a parent and the person taking the child, which can help connect the parent to services they might need.

At least two other babies have been abandoned in Chicago in recent years.

In May 2019, a baby was left with her umbilical cord still attached to the top of a trash can in an alley on the 1700 block of North Keystone Avenue in Hermosa. A woman and her daughter driving down the alley noticed him and rushed the child to a fire station around the corner. The child survived and a 16-year-old was later identified as the mother.

In August 2021, a newborn baby was found in a dresser drawer in an alley in Montclare on the northwest side. A trash removal crew discovered the child in the 2300 block of North Oak Park Avenue. The child was in good condition.

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