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Abandoned baby doing well at Altru Hospital, nursing supervisor says

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The newborn baby girl left wrapped in a towel inside a small cardboard box Saturday morning at a Grand Forks Fire Station is in good condition at Altru Hospital, a nursing supervisor said Sunday.

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Grand Forks police have said only that the investigation continues into who left the baby there and what the circumstances of her birth and the condition of her mother.

Shortly after 7:30 a.m. Saturday, a firefighter shoveling snow outside the fire station on North Columbia Road on UND's Bronson Property heard a voice, probably a man's, nearby and went over to check on it and found the box on top of an electrical transformer.

The baby was given quick medical attention, including oxygen and warmed-up clean towels from firefighters and then was taken by ambulance to Altru.

It was clear the baby had been born within hours of being left at the fire station, police and firefighters said.

It appeared that a man left the box at the fire station, making enough noise to attract the attention of the firefighter shoveling snow, police said.

North Dakota's "safe haven" law allows people to leave young children at a hospital without facing abandonment or negligence charges. While some states include fire stations as such "safe havens," North Dakota does not, so the people responsible for leaving the baby could face criminal charges, police said.

But the first concern is the baby's health and that of her mother, police said.

There have been "safe haven" babies left at Altru Hospital in Grand Forks, said Kate Kenna, regional director of Northeast Human Services in Grand Forks and of Lake Region Human Services in Devils Lake.

"But we haven't had many safe-haven babies in North Dakota," Kenna said.

The state's safe haven law allows a parent or "agent" to leave a baby at a hospital without having to provide any information or answer any questions. Usually, such cases are not made public.

In the case of this baby girl, Altru can, by a doctor's decision, keep custody of a baby for 72 hours. Then, typically, a court order is obtained transferring custody of the child to the local branch of state social services, Kenna said.

"There are many families out there ready to adopt this baby, who have had adoption studies done on their home and are on the waiting list for adoption," Kenna said.

A child typically must live in a home six months before being eligible for adoption, but the goal is to keep a child "in only one home," Kenna said.

"Foster adoption," allows a family qualified for providing foster care to take in a child with the idea they later would adopt the child.

That could happen within a week with this baby, except in her case it's not clear yet if the mother willingly gave up custody, so more of an investigation might be necessary, Kenna said.

It's possible, for example, the baby will be determined to be from another state, which then might involve other laws and regulations for establishing custody, Kenna said.

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