Little is known about the people who drop abandoned babies off in anonymous "baby boxes" around the world, and a debate rages on about the service. (iStock)
A recent increase in the number of so-called baby boxes for abandoned newborns has fuelled an ongoing debate between critics and supporters.
The anonymous drop-off spots, which were common in medieval Europe, have been making a comeback over the last 10 years, according to a BBC report published Tuesday.
Germany, for instance, now has 99 baby boxes. They are not literal boxes but often heated, cushioned areas accessible through unlocked hatches, which may be monitored by health professionals. Sometimes they contain a letter with contact information in case the person leaving the baby regrets their choice.
Advocates say baby boxes are an important option for desperate mothers. In Canada, babies have been found everywhere from school yards and parking garages to hotels and dumpsters.
But as the number of boxes increases, so too does the United Nations' concern about the service they consider outdated and ineffective.
Article 7 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that every child has "the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents - when a child is abandoned, this right is violated."
Others worry that the anonymous deliveries may be nefarious.
"Studies in Hungary show that it's not necessarily mothers who place babies in these boxes - that it's relatives, pimps, step-fathers, fathers," Kevin Browne of Nottingham University told the BBC.
"Therefore, the big question is: are these baby boxes upholding women's rights, and has the mother of that child consented to the baby being placed in the baby box?"
Browne added that the service doesn't help authorities understand more about the people using them, nor figure out if they need help or counselling. Others agreed that services that operate like safe houses would be preferable to boxes.
But advocates respond that many people are desperate and use the service precisely because it is simple and low-risk.
Dr. Geoffrey Cundiff, who founded the Vancouver baby box known as "Angel's Cradle" - the only one in Canada -- said the reality is that babies are abandoned all the time.
"If we can save one, to me, that is a program that is pragmatic -- even if they don't know who their parents are," Cundiff said.
What do you think of baby boxes? Do they provide an important service, or do they do cause more harm than good?
(This survey is not scientific. Results are based on readers' replies)
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