EDMONTON—Two Edmonton hospitals have become the latest health centres in Canada to offer “angel cradles” as a safe haven for dropping off unwanted babies anonymously.
Modelled after Canada’s first newborn safe haven set up at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver in 2010, Alberta’s first angel cradles are located by the Grey Nuns Community Hospital and the Misericordia Community Hospital emergency departments.
“It provides an alternative to help prevent unsafe abandonment, such as leaving a newborn in a trash bin or back alley,” said Gordon Self, vice president of mission, ethics, and spirituality at Covenant Health, which operates the two hospitals in cooperation with Alberta Health Services.
The angel cradles are equipped with sensors that notify emergency staff 30 seconds after a baby has been placed there. Hospital health professionals would first evaluate the baby’s health and then contact Child and Family Services in Alberta to see to it that the baby is cared for.
Covenant Health says that as long as the baby is unharmed, hospital staff will not try to find the parents, although Child and Family Services will try to identify the baby and the parents as they are obliged by law to do so.
“We certainly support the rights of children to know their parental history, as declared by the World Health Organization, as well as the rights of fathers, but despite the criticism of the WHO regarding baby hatches, we recognize that unsafe abandonment still occurs in our society,” Self says.
“[T]his preventative measure at least gives a child a chance to know its history and be reunited if later the parent(s) comes forward. In a moment of desperation, a rash decision may be made that can have dire consequences.”
Vancouver’s angel cradle received its first and only abandoned baby shortly after its initiation in 2010.