The Baby Box Program, which was just getting started in Alabama when new Gov. Kay Ivey pulled the plug on the office that administered it, will continue with her support through a different department, her administration confirmed Tuesday.
Ivey did away with the Office of Rural Development within days of taking office, leaving questions about the future of the program after it was expected to distribute more than 60,000 free boxes of supplies to new and expecting parents in 2017.
The boxes, for which every expecting parent in Alabama is eligible, includes newborn essentials such as diapers, baby wipes, activity cards, breast pads and nipple cream for breastfeeding mothers, a onesie, and a waterproof tote bag.
Ivey's office says the program will now be handled by the Alabama Department of Human Resources.
“The Baby Box program is important for expectant families in our state," Ivey said. "Being able to provide this much needed resource is important for the promotion of a strong understanding of infant care. The information learned through this program is imperative during the beginning stages of life, because it helps decrease the infant mortality rate and increase awareness for all families. Children are our future and their future begins with a safe sleeping environment.”
DHR Commissioner Nancy Buckner said her department is, "pleased to have the opportunity to continue this important program. Children are vulnerable at birth and continue to be at a heightened risk during the first months of their lives. Child deaths due to unsafe sleeping environments are totally preventable. Making sure that children have a safe sleep environment is one of the most important things we can do to protect infants.”
Ron Sparks, a former agriculture commissioner who managed the ORD, was critical of Ivey following her decision to close the office.
"She had no respect for the Black Belt. She had no respect for telemedicine, and no respect for the babies' lives in this state," Sparks stated in an interview after losing his job.
Ivey, who is from the Black Belt's Wilcox County, called the office closure a business decision, not a personal decision.
Copyright 2017 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.