Police investigating after infant abandoned on Halifax lawn

Police in Halifax and staff with the province's Department of Community Services are investigating after a four- or five-week-old infant was found Sunday afternoon along Quinpool Road.

Child abandonment very rare in Nova Scotia, says police officer, family services official

Wendy Bungay, director of placement services for the province's Community Services Department, says the abandoned baby girl is under the temporary care of the province for 72 hours. (CBC)

Police and staff with the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services are investigating after a four- or five-week-old infant was found abandoned in Halifax on Sunday afternoon.

Police were called between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. to the 6200 block of Quinpool Road, an often-busy stretch of road home to a number of restaurants and businesses.

Police spokesperson Const. Dianne Penfound said the baby girl was found behind a building on Quinpool on a grassy area near a back step. She was wearing a diaper and wrapped in a blanket. 

The baby was taken to the IWK Health Centre and police say doctors have determined she is healthy.

Police appeal for witnesses, video surveillance

As police could not identify the child or her parents, she's been taken into provincial custody. Police are asking for help as they investigate, appealing for video surveillance or witnesses who may have been in the area at the time.

"The baby is in safe hands now but we want to find out how she came to be where she was and make sure other parties involved are OK as well," said Penfound.

Police say the infant was found in the 6200-block of Quinpool Road. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

The person who found the child was "shocked" but did the right thing, Penfound said. 

"They called us right away and she was taken into care very quickly and taken to the appropriate medical professionals."

Other than the child's age, the only other description of the girl is that she's black.

A senior officer on duty said it's the first case of its kind he's seen in 25 years on the job.

'Just glad the baby's safe and sound'

Kerry McNutt, who manages a business set to open this week on Quinpool Road, was working Sunday afternoon when police arrived on the scene. He said his colleague saw police leave with a baby in a carrier after searching around some of the businesses near TD Canada Trust across the street.

"It seemed like they did a good job," he said. "I'm just glad the baby's safe and sound."

Jared Allen, who was walking down Quinpool Road Monday morning, said it's not something you usually hear about happening in Halifax. 

"It's quite shocking … I just didn't really know that that would be something that would happen in Halifax," he said.

"It's a sin, too, because if it was unwanted … there are plenty of other options other than abandoning a four-week-old child."

Location was close to hospital

Rachel Lively was walking along Quinpool Road to work at a nearby hospital when she heard about what happened.

"I think it's crazy. I think that it's so much easier to go a few extra feet up to the hospital to drop the baby off rather than just plop it somewhere and hope that someone will find it."

Community Services Minister Kelly Regan urged the parents of the abandoned infant to contact police or her department. (CBC)

Community Services Minister Kelly Regan said she hopes the baby's parents will reach out and contact police or community services.

"I'm a mother of three and I know how hard parenting can be sometimes."

While police try to track down the parents and family members, the infant will remain in the care of child and family services.

Extended family members

"We're able to temporarily take responsibility for that child up to 72 hours," said Wendy Bungay, director of placement services for the Community Services Department.

"Over that 72 hours, the goal is to try and locate the child's parents or a member of the child's family or extended family and to investigate what the circumstances were resulting in that child being abandoned."

After 72 hours have passed, family services must begin making longer-term plans for the child.

"Under the legislation, we would move toward family court and get a formal order placing that child in our temporary care and custody, to allow us to effectively plan for that child."

Child abandonment very rare

She also commented on how rare child abandonment is in Nova Scotia.

"I can honestly say that in my entire career with child welfare — which is almost three decades — I can only think of one other circumstance, in the 90s, when something similar may have occurred."

Bungay could not comment directly on the incident.

"Every single circumstance is very unique. Parenting can be very challenging, even in the best of times. Usually when a person is feeling isolated and without support, they make decisions that, in retrospect, weren't the best ones," she said.

"I hope that every person in Nova Scotia will reach out if they are need and share concerns, fears and stresses with those who care about them."