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Safe Haven for Abandoned Babies

It was a summer evening when the first abandoned baby arrived at the “safe haven” of Shijiazhuang City Social Welfare Institute (SCSWI).

The unwanted boy, wrapped in pink quilts in a box, suffered from Down’s syndrome, and only survived nine days despite medical treatment.

It is scenes like this that drive Han Jinhong, head of the institute, to offer help to abandoned babies.

“We can’t change the fact that some parents abandon their babies, but we can change the outcome by saving the children,” he said.

The creation of the “safe haven” for abandoned babies has triggered heated debates among the public.

Supporters say it is a humane approach to helping and caring for the children, while others say it is like giving silent consent to the parents who throw away their own flesh and blood, and may encourage others to do the same.

Safe but controversial

The “safe haven,” which was established on June 1 last year next to the gate of the SCSWI, is a two-square meter booth with an infant bed, a nursery cabinet and ventilation, and is where 26 unwanted babies have been found since its construction.

Most of the babies were born handicapped or with serious diseases, and only 18 of them survived, said Han.

The institute had been unable to track down the parents as none left their names or contact information.

“Before we set up the booth, many unwanted babies were left in boxes or bags randomly near the institute, some were already dead before we found them,” said Han. “We created the safe haven because we wanted to prevent that from happening, and try to help them live longer.”

Han said he feared the total number of abandoned babies would increase after the institute built the safe haven, but it did not.

The total number of babies the institute received, including through the safe haven and normal channels citywide, was 75 between June and November last year, lower than the total numbers in the same period over the two previous years.

The institute receives a 1,000 yuan ($158) monthly allowance for each child from the civil affairs authorities and financial allocations for major surgeries needed for sick children, and also accepts public donations.

All children able to enjoy a normal education do so, and those who are disabled are sent to special schools. Some are adopted, Han said, by either Chinese or foreigners, and some get married and find jobs as normal.

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