Chinese city sets up baby hatch to tackle child abandonment
March 6, 2012Jing Gao4 CommentsBaby hatch, birth defects, Child abandonment, Child welfare, cleft lip, Cleft lip and palate, congenital defects, foundling, Infant, Infant abandonment, Orphanage, preference for a boy, safe haven, social welfare, Welfare Home for Children
To shield foundlings from harm and threats in the wilderness where they are usually abandoned and increase their chance of survival, an orphanage in Shijiazhuang, North China’s Hebei province set up a baby hatch last June as a temporary shelter to allow parents to drop off unwanted infants, which has drawn controversy from people who argue that this gives the green light for child abandonment. Until the end of January, among the 26 foundlings it has received, 18 have survived.
According to Han Jinhong, director of the Welfare Home, an average number of a dozen babies were found abandoned somewhere near the orphanage before the introduction of the baby hatch. Most foundlings were lying in paper cartons or mesh bags and are very prone to illnesses caused or exacerbated by either heat or cold. Some of them were even being preyed upon by stray cats and dogs at the time they were discovered and had ants creeping all over their bodies.
Han Jinhong said he learned of this practice in existence in foreign countries at a conference, which inspired him to follow the example. In countries like Germany, Italy, Czech and Russia, baby hatches are often placed in hospitals and churches and equipped with thermal control and alarm systems. Some even have diapers inside their incubator. While this practice has been accepted by their governments, in China, it is a novel concept.
Some people believed that making a special arrangement for child abandonment, which is a criminal act, is tantamount to “encouraging irresponsible people to do irresponsible things” with the official connivance and will, at its worst, lead to an increase in foundlings. “After I read this news story, I am not sure I should feel sad or happy,” a net user wrote. Han Jinhong wavered over the idea before he finally convinced himself and his colleagues with his own word: “We may not be able to change anything about child abandonment itself, but we can change the result of the child abandonment.”
The first baby hatch in North China’s Hebei province, called “Babys’ Safe Haven,” was installed by Shijiazhuang Welfare Home and cost 100,000 yuan.
The Safe Haven is equipped with an incubator and ventilation to ensure moderate room temperature, moisture and oxygen. Workers at the Welfare Home patrol every two hours to check if a baby has been put in it. The person who drop off the infant can also press an alarm to alert workers so that they can come retrieve the infant.
Infant abandonment is rampant in China. Infants abandoned may have been born in a poverty-stricken family, have been born out of wedlock, suffer from congenital defects, or simply are girls unwanted by parents who prefer a boy.
Last October, a baby boy with a cleft lip was found by a net user in a paper carton on the roadside in south China’s Guangxi province. On March 2, 2012, a man was arrested for abandoning his 3-month-old son with congenital heart disease and pneumonia at Wuhan Tianhe Airport.
A man who walked by bought milk to feed the baby abandoned by his parents for having a cleft lip before sending him to the local orphanage.
A 3-month-old baby boy was found abandoned at Wuhan Tianhe Airport on Tuesday.