Should Baby Boxes be Banned?Wednesday 5th of December 2012 | Category: Baby News | Written by: Rosanne Moulding
Baby boxes are small, incubated spaces often created in the sides of hospital walls where mothers can leave their unwanted babies anonymously. Although technically illegal, many areas will turn a blind eye to the presence of the boxes. However, last month the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child called for all baby boxes to be banned.
How Does the UK Treat These Circumstances?
Currently, there are no known baby boxes in Britain. Our laws state that it is illegal for a baby to be abandoned anywhere in the country. If a mother wishes to give her baby up for adoption, they must leave their name and contact details as it is also illegal for a mother to give her baby up for adoption anonymously here in the UK. However, it is sometimes permitted for a mother to give birth anonymously and then leave her baby in a hospital for adoption in very special circumstances, although it is still technically illegal.
What about Europe?
Germany is thought to have the most baby boxes, with around 100 in operation. Other European nations which have these boxes are Poland, the Czech Republic, Italy, Lithuania, Russia, Slovakia, Switzerland, and Belgium. There is currently one being planned for the Netherlands.
So are the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC) right when they say all baby boxes should be banned? Or do they provide a safe haven for an unwanted child?
What Should Happen?
There are many factors to consider when looking at this argument, and as baby boxes are technically illegal, accurate figures are hard to get hold of. It is thought that around one or two babies are left at every baby box each year. If these are all children who would in other circumstances be left somewhere unsafe such as at the side of the road or on someone else's doorstep, or in extreme circumstances even killed, then the baby boxes have to be a good thing. They offer a safe, sanitary place for a child to be left and then adopted by other parents properly. However, it is impossible to know what would happen to these children had they not been left in the baby box. The UNCROC worry that some of these abandonments may be happening by a male figure in the mother's life, such as a pimp, partner or father, and that the mother may be forced into giving up her child. They also believe that the boxes deny the child their human rights, and that the boxes avoid dealing with the problems which lead to child abandonment.
It seems that the main drawback to the baby boxes is the idea that they are promoting child abandonment, and that the child has no way of tracking down his or her parents when they are older. However, if you compare those drawbacks to the life a child may have either being left somewhere unsafe, where they could well die before anyone finds them, or being raised by a mother who is in dire circumstances, such as being in forced prostitution, compared to the baby being left in a safe place and then hopefully adopted by parents who have gone through government checks and procedure, then the drawbacks don't seem as huge.
Germany are also looking at other ways to combat the problem of child abandonment, such as legalising anonymous adoption in hospitals. This would hopefully prevent any children being stolen from their mothers by a male figure and left at the boxes.
As the figures cannot be 100% accurate, and we have no way of knowing what life the children who are left in the baby boxes would have if the boxes were not there, it is impossible to draw a firm conclusion as to whether or not baby boxes should be banned. However, let us know your thoughts below or on our forums.