As Governor Brian Kemp wrapped up this year’s legislative session, amid a slew of bill signings, he took a moment to highlight his and the General Assembly’s work on issues related to children in tough circumstances, streamlining adoption, the foster care process and reducing regulations on adoptive parents.

“I am proud to sign legislation that will make it easier and more affordable to adopt children in the Peach State, allow grant tuition and fee waivers for eligible foster and adopted students at Georgia’s postsecondary institutions, and remove procedural hurdles for adoptive parents,” said Governor Kemp. “Placing our kids in safe and loving homes is not controversial, and I am thankful to the General Assembly for working closely with our office on these important reforms in a bipartisan fashion.”

Another piece of this puzzle for providing for kids are Georgia’s Safe Haven laws, which allows for a mom in crisis that otherwise might resort to infant abandonment to leave their child in a safe place with care provided. The law has been tweaked and expanded over the last year, thanks in part to a Kennesaw-based organization called the Hope Box.

“We deal with anything that concerns infant abandonment. Our tagline is Rescuing Babies, Empowering Women, Uniting Communities. Concerning rescuing babies, we are the Safe Haven experts in the state,” said Emily Virkler, the Hope Box director of operations. “We train and talk to anyone about why a mother might need this option. We work with Boarder Babies. babies that are left in hospitals who are free for medical discharge but have no home to go to, we work on getting them placed in forever homes.”

The group was founded by Sarah Koeppen after a mom left her three-year-old boy on the Koeppen’s doorstep. The Koeppens took the boy in and were able to eventually adopt him but the experience woke Koeppen up to the experience of moms in that position.

The Hope Box has been one of the critical groups for the Safe Haven laws but VIrkler notes that 99.9% of the time, if the mom is willing to speak to the Hope Box, they will decide against abandonment. In those cases, the mom will either choose to become a parent, with all the resources and help that the Hope Box can provide, or also give the child up for adoption. The Hope Box is not an adoption agency but they are able to help guide moms through the process and work to get them the best possible outcome.

In those .1% of cases, the Hope Box trains all Safe Haven providers and any community group – such as churchs, moms groups or pregnancy centers – that want to know more about working with moms in crisis, focusing on compassion and assistance and avoiding judgment or negativity. Their training is going on all the time and they have charity events that help support their work, such as a golf tournament coming in the fall.

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