Monday May 3, 2010

Vancouver Hospital Opens ‘Angel’s Cradle’ Anonymous Baby Drop-Off

By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

VANCOUVER, May 3, 2010 ( – St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver today launched a newborn drop-off facility called Angel’s Cradle that will provide a place for mothers to abandon their babies anonymously and safely.

The door to the Angel’s Cradle, set in a private alcove near the hospital’s emergency entrance, is set up to automatically trigger an alarm 30 seconds after a baby is placed inside.

After the alarm has alerted nurses to the presence of the child, doctors at the hospital will assess the baby’s health and provide any necessary medical treatment, then put the child in the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

Dr. Geoffrey Cundiff, head of the hospital’s obstetrics and gynecology department, said he wanted a way for troubled mothers to leave their babies safely and anonymously at the hospital instead of on the street, because of the number of abandoned infants that have been found dead in Vancouver in recent years.

“It’s troubling to think about a mother abandoning a baby. This brings up all sorts of visceral reactions in people. But it’s an unfortunate reality, and all we are trying to do is to care for the baby,” Dr. Cundiff told reporters. “Those women really aren’t left with options and they abandon their children in unsafe places.”

According to a hospital statement, the Vancouver Police Department will support the baby drop-off and not seek to investigate or charge any mothers who use the facility.

“The procedure for dealing with abandoned infants at the hospital has not changed,” the statement says. “We are simply providing a safe place for women to safely and anonymously give up their infants instead of leaving them in a place that puts the baby at risk.”

“While there are adoption options for a woman in the Lower Mainland who is unable to care for her newborn baby, women in crisis are sometimes hesitant to access these resources because they want to remain anonymous. Angel’s cradle is a way for a woman to give up her newborn safely and remain anonymous,” said the hospital.

Dr. Cundiff pointed out that almost every month a newborn baby is abandoned at St. Paul’s.

“There are laws about abandoning babies, but really those are to ensure that a baby is not abandoned in an unsafe place,” he said. “There is a small number of women who, for whatever reason, can’t face authorities.”

While this is the first facility of its kind in Canada, safe places to leave unwanted newborns have existed for centuries in Europe, and are being reintroduced by both government and religious organizations in the U.S., Asia and many European countries.

“Already in medieval times in one of the sisters’ convents in Rome the congregation opened their gate for such unloved, unneeded children. It was possible to leave the child there and have hope that it would be treated pretty well and later maybe adopted,” said Dominican Fr. Krzysztof M’del at the recent inauguration of a “Window of Life” in the convent of the Sisters of the Congregation of Servants of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God in Czestochowa, Poland.

Many European cities had “foundling homes” established by church agencies. The home’s door usually had a small opening containing a trough. The baby was placed in the container, a string was pulled to move the container inside and a bell rang to summon someone to retrieve the infant.

Tim Phan, administrative assistant for Project Advance, a program of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver that collects funds annually to aid in diocesan-wide social programs, told LifeSiteNews that the Angel’s Cradle at St. Paul’s Hospital was brought into being with financial aid from this program.

See related LSN article:

Third “Window of Life” for Unwanted Babies Inaugurated in Poland