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U.N. Criticizes Spread of Baby Drop Boxes

baby drop boxes, child abandonment

Safe havens were designed to prevent infanticide. But U.N. critics say they violate child rights.

A system designed to protect unwanted newborns in Europe has drawn criticism from a United Nations committee responsible for the well-being of the world’s children. The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child claims that baby drop boxes safe havens where mothers can leave unwanted newborns actually violate the rights of the child they are designed to save.

Plus, the drop boxes’ critics say, they don’t really work.

The U.N. committee’s main criticism is that the boxes, which require no documentation and, therefore, do not name the mother or father of the abandoned child, violates the U.N.-named right of a “child to be known and cared for by his or her parents.” Dr. Maria Herczog, a member of the UNCRC, also told TIME that the drop boxes allow society to avoid dealing with the root of the child abandonment problem. From TIME:

“Many NGOs and institutions use it as a cheap and populist solution to the problem of child abandonment,” Herczog said. “It is definitely a growing practice across Europe.”

The E.U. country with the most baby drop boxes, Germany, is also the country with the strongest economy, critics observe. Hamburg, alone, has three of the boxes. Despite the availability of these safe havens, 30 to 40 children in Germany die every year due to abandonment. That’s the same number in total of babies that have been saved since the first box was installed back in 2000. Not all of those babies were dropped off by mothers, some also say, rather fathers or relatives took it upon themselves to give the babies up.

As the U.N. takes a closer look at the drop boxes, which are growing in numbers, German lawmakers have put some new rules in place that will make child abandonment, even in the safe havens, more difficult. The purpose is to bring “confidential births” in line with the nation’s constitution, which guarantees the right to know of one’s origins and also the rights of fathers to be part of a child’s upbringing — both of which are breached, as The Guardian points out and TIME reports, when a newborn is left at one of these boxes.

All 50 states in the U.S. have some kind of safe haven laws where unwanted children can be dropped off at certain hospitals or other public places. Do you think they are a good idea?

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