Two Edmonton hospitals latest to offer drop-offs for unwanted infants
Angela Mulholland, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, May 6, 2013 1:36PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, May 6, 2013 8:38PM EDT
Desperate parents in Edmonton who feel they can’t care for their newborns will soon have a new option to give up their babies.
Two hospitals in the city are opening so-called “Angel’s Cradles” where overwhelmed parents can drop off their babies anonymously
The boxes will allow parents to place an infant inside a bassinet in a box in the emergency department at Grey Nuns Community Hospital and Misericordia Community Hospital.
The cradle is set to trigger an alarm 30 seconds after a baby is placed inside and the parent walks away. The hospital will make no attempt to identify those who use the cradle, and no criminal charges will be pursued.
Doctors at the hospital can then care for the baby and assess its health before eventually passing the child into the care of Alberta Human Services.
Gordon Self with Covenant Health, the Catholic-based organization that runs the two hospitals, says the cradles are not meant to replace community social service agencies, but to provide an alternative to unsafe abandonment, such as leaving a newborn in a trash bin or back alley.
“We are doing everything possible for people who may be vulnerable and at risk of abandoning a newborn,” Self said in an interview with CTV News Monday.
Dr. Irene Colliton, with Grey Nuns Hospital, says while there are a number of options for parents who feel they can’t care for their newborns, some parents want to remain anonymous.
“The reality is some parents feel they have no other choice if they have hidden their pregnancy or there are other perceived barriers to seeking appropriate help," she said in a statement. “And they end up abandoning their child in an unsafe setting.”
Self says his agency was intrigued by the example set by Providence Health Care, which opened a similar cradle program at a hospital in Vancouver. He says he then wondered if such a need existed in Edmonton.
After conducting three years of research and consultation, the agency felt it was the right thing to do.
Gail Cameron, director of maternal and children neonatal health at Covenant Health, said it’s another option for parents who find themselves in a desperate situation.
“If it’s going to be abandoned, and it’s abandoned in a safe place like this, it’s a safe haven,” she said. “So they will receive all the medical attention and care they need.”
Child and Family Services is obligated by law to attempt to identify and locate the parents.
However, Self said medical staff will make no attempts to identify or find the parent unless the child is found to be harmed.
It is illegal to abandon a child in Canada, however police have said in the past they won’t charge mothers who leave their babies in safe places.
St. Paul's Hospital in downtown Vancouver unveiled Canada’s first Angel’s Cradle in May 2010. Since then, only one baby has been dropped off there.
That infant was left just a few months after the cradle program was opened, and the parent included a note explaining the child's ethnicity and family history but offered no indication as to why they chose to abandon the baby.
Neither hospital employees nor Vancouver police made any effort to track the parent down and the child was eventually placed into care.
With a report from CTV Edmonton’s Ashley Molnar and with files from The Canadian Press