Should this be happening in the 21st Century?
I have just read the most awful story on the BBC News Website!
Headed up “The ‘baby box’ returns to Europe” it goes on to describe how these boxes, which were common in medieval times, where people can leave an unwanted baby, have been making a comeback in recent years!
Supporters say that a heated box, monitored by nurses, is better for babies than abandonment on the street – but the UN says it violates the rights of the child.
“Article 7 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child clearly states that every child has ‘the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents’ – when a child is abandoned, this right is violated” (source University of Nottingham)
The idea has taken off in various locations across Europe and the statistics currently available from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child are:
Boxes by country:
- Poland – 45
- Czech Republic – 44
- Hungary – 26
- Slovakia – 16
- Lithuania – 8
- Italy – 8 (approx.)
- Belgium – 1
- Netherlands – 1 (planned)
- Switzerland – 1
- Vatican – 1
- Canada – 1
- Malaysia – 1
- Also exist in Japan and the US
The law in some countries encourages their spread in popularity – in Hungary, for example, it was changed so that leaving a baby in the official baby box was deemed to be a legal act amounting to consent to adoption, while dumping a child anywhere else remains a crime.
Further details discovered about a box in Berlin was that once placed in the box, the baby is apparently supported by the full facilities of a maternity unit. As soon as a baby is in the hatch, an alarm rings and medical staff come, even as the mother walks away unseen. The baby is cared for in the hospital and then fostered before going into the legal system for adoption. In the early period, mothers can return and retrieve their child, but later they can’t – adoption is final.
It’s difficult to find out the full figures of how many relent – the critics of the system say that in Germany it is well-appointed, with the best facilities, but in some of the poorer countries to the east, baby boxes are less well organised.
But at one baby box in Hamburg, for example, there have been 42 babies left in the last 10 years. Seventeen of those mothers have then contacted the organisers, and 14 have taken back their child.
The argument for these boxes has to be that they have to be better than providing no facilities at all and babies being abandoned and perhaps left to die, exposed to the elements.
The argument against is that it sends out the wrong message to pregnant women that they are right to continue hiding their pregnancies, giving birth in uncontrolled circumstances and then abandoning their babies.
There is no clear right or wrong in this – it is an argument between well-meaning people. The one voice never heard is that of the mother who walks the path with the baby she bore secretly hours earlier, to return without the bundle. Her tears and how she feels can barely be imagined.