Safe transfer sites for abandoned newborns are resented in Alberta

It has been almost a year since a secure transfer point was installed at a fire station in Strathmore, Alta.

It was the first time in Canada that such a location had opened in a fire station, and the charity spearheading the Hope’s Cradle project doesn’t want it to be the last.

The Hope’s Cradle is an initiative that allows parents to safely and anonymously leave a child in a designated place when they feel they are unable to care for them. As soon as an infant is left in the cradle, a silent alarm notifies staff.

Jordan Guildford, founder of Gems for Gems, described the site as a life-saving option for distressed mothers.

“It’s a ‘when’, not a ‘if’ the next baby is coming,” she said.

“Now that we know we can help this problem, that’s up to us, and that weighs heavily on me.”

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In Hope’s Cradle, a temperature-controlled bassinet.

Jill Croteau/Global News

Guildford said the safe alternative for mothers to abandon their newborns has met with reluctance from Alberta fire departments. Despite hundreds of emails trying to convince them to host this initiative, only the Strathmore Fire Department has said yes.

READ MORE: Hope’s Cradle in southern Alberta aims to offer safe alternative to baby abandonment

“They keep calling it a perfect storm,” she said. “This means essentially all resources and all first responder resources are on another call and unable to attend the charging station.

“In any case, a safe, temperature-controlled cradle is better than a ditch or dumpster.

“Winnipeg is interested. Nova Scotia is interested. Ontario is very interested. But we need Alberta. Alberta should take the lead here.”

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Exterior of Hope’s Cradle.

Jill Croteau/Global News

There is a conscious attempt to give these babies a chance at life and to support the mothers who feel there is no other option.

Secure Handover Points are completely anonymous and inside is an envelope with resource details. Parents also have the option of writing a letter to their child.

Strathmore Fire Department’s Captain Eric Alexander said Hope’s Cradle needed to be accessible in more parts of the city.

“We are here to meet the needs of our community,” he said. “If we can invest a small amount to save a life, it’s definitely worth it.

“We spend millions of dollars on equipment and training to be able to save a life, and if we can install Hope’s Cradle in a fire station, it’s (a) pretty small (cost) … to pay for this opportunity.”

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The cradle of hope.

Jill Croteau/Global News

The concept is to make mother and baby safe.

Alexander said that leaving a baby in such a place, the mother or a family member will open the door to set off a silent alarm, alerting the dispatch.

“If the door stays open after 20 seconds an alarm will sound to let the mother know the first responders are on their way and if they want to remain anonymous they had better (have to) leave the premises. This door is then locked.”

The compartment is temperature controlled and safe.

Jill Croteau/Global News

He said it’s a low-maintenance project and urges others to consider it.

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“We see it this way: we check the rest of our equipment in the fire station,” said Alexander.

“We check every day that the temperature of the cradle is correct and that the alarm system is working, but that adds a maximum of 20 or 30 seconds to a day.”

Dave Sweet is a homicide detective with the Calgary Police Service. He said he supports the initiative, adding that the true scope cannot be calculated.

“The alternative is tragic,” he said. “This could potentially lead to the safe delivery of a child and that child gets a life.

“The ramifications are huge… (when a baby) is found dead in a dumpster. It is felt by the person who discovered the baby. It will be felt by the first officer present, and it will certainly be felt by the mother.”

Advocates of a safe handover point are urging communities to force firefighters in their neighborhood to accept the nearest cradle.

“I’m honestly getting a little choked thinking about the next time …[that a]baby is abandoned and we find that,” Guildford said.

“I think the need is huge and not doing anything about it when we know what to do is wrong.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc. Safe transfer sites for abandoned newborns are resented in Alberta


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