Safe Place for Newborns Goes Global
The need to save infants from abandonment is not a local, state or even nationwide issue. It is a global concern and one that deserves attention. Tricia Burkett, Coordinator for Safe Place for Newborns (SPfN), was given a unique opportunity when she was invited to speak and participate at the international conference, A Child is a Gift, on infant abandonment. Held in Slovakia, several countries from across Europe participated not only to present their individual programs but to collaborate on how their efforts are working. Trish was the only representative from the U.S.
In Wisconsin, infants can be safely and anonymously relinquished within 72 hours of birth, in hospitals and to other professionals such as firefighters, police officers, and EMTs to name a few. In Europe, they have baby boxes/hatches, which are typically connected to a hospital, meaning each box opens directly to a nursing unit. When a mother opens the hatch, there is a warmer to place the baby in, as well as support/educational materials for her. There is also information on how to return for her baby should she decide upon that option. When the latch opens, an alarm sounds in the hospital. While ample time is given to the mother to anonymously relinquish her infant, the baby is taken quickly by hospital staff. In addition to the baby box, women can also enter a hospital, deliver their baby safely, and request an anonymous birth. This is very similar to how the Wisconsin Safe Haven Law works.
Although infants can be relinquished this way in several European countries, there has been some push back regarding the baby hatch, specifically from the United Nations. One of the primary purposes of A Child is a Gift conference was to determine how to gain support of the United Nations to prevent children being abandoned all over the world. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child does not support the use of baby boxes due to the fact that children who are relinquished are unable to access their biological history. The Committee sees this as a violation of their human rights and is asking countries to cease the use of the boxes. It is estimated that 200 baby boxes have been installed across Europe in the past decade. Some fear that discontinuing their use will increase the number of unsafe infant abandonment, resulting in injury or far worse, death.
The U.S. is one of a handful of countries who have not signed on to be part of the UN Committee and therefore is exempt from this issue. But other countries are not as fortunate. While systems to accept relinquished infants in other countries are in place, most are not a product of their government and, therefore, the system is a means of prevention; relinquishment is not necessarily forbidden, but it is also not legal.
The U.S. is unique in its legislation surrounding the protection of newborns whereby relinquishment is legal. Wisconsin residents are blessed to have the Safe Haven Law that protects both the mother and infant.
Fundraising efforts for the Wheaton Franciscan – St. Joseph Foundation are in place to support the Safe Place for Newborn program so that all Wisconsin residents will hear the message about the Safe Haven Law, which in turn, will continue to reduce the number of infants who are illegally abandoned.
We appreciate our many individuals, corporations and foundations that support the SPfN program. It is with your generosity that we are able to educate thousands of Wisconsinites on the Safe Haven Law, ultimately saving babies!
Learn more about the Safe Place for Newborns program.