Original baby box saves 25th child

But the option to anonymously give up a baby has its critics

Mothers in the Czech Republic can leave unwanted infants in baby boxes at the entries to some hospitals and clinics. The mothers do not have to give any explanation or information. The first baby box in the network is located at a private clinic in Prague's Hloubetin district. It saved its 25th baby recently, a healthy baby girl named Gita.

The founder of the baby box network, entrepreneur and poet Ludvík Hess, said that a note with the baby said she was born at 10:22 pm, according to daily Pražský deník. At the end of March, a boy named Vratislav was put in one of the boxes, wrapped in a scarf. So far this year, seven babies have been saved via the boxes.

Hess founded an NGO called the Foundation For Abandoned Children (Statim), which installs the boxes.

Because the boxes are on the sides of hospitals or clinics, the abandoned baby gets an immediate medical attention and social care. When the box is opened and closed, an electronic signal is activated to notify the medical staff in the clinic, and the baby is taken into care.

Leaflets in Czech, Russian and English at the boxes explain what a mother should do if she changes her mind about giving up their baby. Many of the children left in the boxes are not Czech, but are of Balkan or African heritage, according to previous reports.

The original box has been in operation for 12 years, and started service on June 1, 2005. There are now around 70 baby boxes across the country, and together they have saved 153 babies, with boys in the majority. The second box in the network opened in Brno, and the third in Olomouc.

Proponents of the boxes say that they help to speed up the adoption process, which can be very slow.

The baby boxes are not without critics, who say that the boxes deprive the baby of any chance of finding out their heritage when they grow up. The children also will not have any knowledge of hereditary diseases and similar problems. Some hospitals also refuse to have the boxes installed for this reason.

The organization behind the baby boxes says that many women are fearful of dealing with the authorities to give up their babies, and that the boxes prevent babies from being abandoned in risky places or, worse, left to die at some abandoned place or in a dumpster.

Critics also say the number of babies killed by being abandoned has remained the same.

The baby box proponents also say that children born via artificial insemination also do not have full knowledge of their genetic parents. Also, some children are not the offspring of the father listed on their birth certificate. So those children are in the same position as the ones from the baby boxes.

When baby boxes reached their 10th year, Hess was awarded a Medal of Merit by President Miloš Zeman, a group of pediatricians sent a protest letter to the President's Office asking him not to present the medal. Critics also include the UN committee for the rights of the child, which also claims they violate the child's right to know about its parental heritage.

For more about baby boxes visit www.babybox.cz (ENG)

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