'Baby boxes' make a return in hospitals

May 7, 2013 at 2:37 PM
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EDMONTON, Alberta, May 7 (UPI) -- Baby boxes, a practice that dates back to medieval convents, are making a comeback in Canada, health officials said.

The baby boxes -- rebranded as "angel cradles" -- allow mothers of infants to return the babies anonymously to the hospital, providing an alternative, safe way to abandon a child.

Such boxes were commonly found in convents dating back to the 12th century in Rome, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., said. In olden times, the boxes were swiveling doors located on a discreet side of the convent that allowed mothers to place the babies in a bassinet and turn the door so the child would be safely moved into the convent where the nuns would care for the child.

In modern times, hospitals in two Canadian cities, Vancouver, British Columbia, and most recently Edmonton, Alberta, have installed high tech versions of the baby boxes.

Mothers can access the cradles from an outside area near the emergency room. When they open the door, they find a bassinet and a teddy bear. Once they put the child inside and close the door, an alarm goes off inside the hospital 60 seconds later, alerting nurses to the baby's presence. They can then look through a camera to see the child's presence -- and ensure the mother has left, thereby keeping the promise of anonymity.

The infants are cared for at the hospital and put up for adoption.

Hospital officials said the Vancouver "angel cradle" has only been used once since its installation in 2010. Two of the baby boxes recently opened in Edmonton have not been used.

About 400 baby boxes have been installed in Europe with some 200 children being returned via the process, the CBC said.

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