Baby Deposit Box

A baby ‘drop box’ that was introduced in a Japanese hospital has received 15 children since it opened in May 2006.

The catholic Jikei hospital in Kumamoto city opened the aptly named ‘Stork’s Cradle’ to discourage women from having abortions or abandoning their children.

People are able to leave their babies in an incubator via a small hatch that is attached on the side of the hospital.  An alarm is then triggered when a baby has been left in the box-type incubator.

Inside the hatch leaflets are left informing the parents how to reclaim their children if they have second thoughts on abandoning them.  The children are then put up for adoption if there is no claim made on them. 

Hospital director Shoichi Hasuda says the baby hatch “is an emergency measure and is not aimed at encouraging parents to abandon babies.” Hasuda says he wants to “see a reduction in the number of abandoned newborns and unhappy abortions as much as possible.”

Within 3 hours on the first day of the stork’s cradle being opened a three year old boy was ‘deposited’.  The child managed to tell hospital workers his name and age and said his father had left him.

The baby hatch anonymously received three babies in March 2008.  One girl and two boys were all under 14 days old; two where in good health and one appears to have some kind of disorder.

History of Baby Hatches

Baby hatches have been in use for hundreds of years and was very common during medieval times.  Then they were named ‘foundling’ wheels in 1198 after Pope Innocent III made it law to have them installed to enable women to leave their child in a safe and secret place, rather than kill them.  The ‘foundling’ wheels were built on the side of homes for foundlings as an upright cylinder which turned around into the church once the baby was placed inside.

These wheels were no longer in use after the late 1800s and the more modern form of the baby hatch was reintroduced in 1996.  Today there are 80 known such baby hatches in use worldwide.

In Germany they are called ‘babyklappe’ (Baby hatch or window), or Babyfenster (baby window).  In Italy they are ‘Culle per la vita (cradle for life) and in France they are ‘toors d’abandaon (abandonment towers.)

Born Out Of Wedlock

Babies have been abandoned for many reasons during the centuries and babies being born out of wedlock were high on the list.

Baby hatches today are intended for the use of mothers who feel they are unable to cope with looking after their own child and wish to remain anonymous.

When giving birth in a German hospital, it is illegal to do so anonymously and the use of the baby hatch is the only way women can leave their babies in secret and feel safe doing so.

In India the baby hatch is an alternative problem to the female foeticide which occurs in vast numbers.  It is against the law to give birth until you are married and the ‘one child’ rule means many baby girls are not wanted.

There are no such baby hatches in the United Kingdom as they are considered illegal.  A mother who abandons a child less than two years old is breaking the law and considered a criminal that if charged can face up to five years in prison.