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Infant surrender site proposed for Sault Ste. Marie

Babies would be left in a temperature-controlled bassinet in exterior wall of a fire station
Hope’s Cradle
The first Hope’s Cradle was established in Dec. 2021 at a fire station in Strathmore, Alberta

Sault Ste. Marie city council will be asked next week to consider establishing a secure drop-off location where babies may be anonymously surrendered.

Ward 3 Coun. Angela Caputo wants the city to consider setting up a temperature-controlled Hope's Cradle bassinet box.

Caputo says some individuals may not be willing or able to care for a child because of extenuating circumstances including:

  • poverty or financial hardship
  • gender-based violence
  • involvement in human trafficking
  • struggles with mental health and/or addiction
  • religious and/or social stigma 
  • sexual violence such as rape or incest

Established by Calgary-based domestic abuse survivors charity Gems for Gems, Hope's Cradle offers mothers and caregivers a judgment-free way to surrender infants to children’s service professionals.

The first two baby boxes were set up in exterior walls in fire stations in Strathmore, Alberta and Taché, Manitoba.

Ontario's first Hope's Cradle is to open this fall in Clarington in Durham Region.

"When a baby is placed in Hope's Cradle, it will be considered a surrender," the organization says.

"Provided the baby is healthy, there will be zero repercussions for the person who chose this safe option."

"This cradle provides a safe and anonymous surrender of the baby, thus protecting its life and the anonymity of the mother. Provided the baby shows no signs of abuse, the anonymity of the mother will be entirely protected.

"It is important to note that a byproduct of this initiative is that the mother is not committing a crime by surrendering the baby in our cradles. It is legally deemed a safe surrender location thus protecting both mother and child. The caveat again is that the baby shows no signs of abuse."

The exterior door is locked and an alarm is triggered when a child is placed in the bassinet.

Emergency responders attend immediately to the child's needs from inside the building.

The individual leaving the child removes a stamped envelope from the cradle, which may be used to submit information about relevant medical history, and/or a letter to the child.

A parent has 30 days to change their mind.

The following is the full text of a resolution to be presented by Caputo and Ward 2 Coun. Lisa Vezeau-Allen at Tuesday's city council meeting.

The meeting will be live-streamed on SooToday starting at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Hope's Cradle

Mover: Councillor A. Caputo
Seconder: Councillor L. Vezeau-Allen

Whereas a person may choose to bring their pregnancy to term, but may not be willing or able to care for the child due to extenuating circumstances that may include, but are not limited to: poverty or financial hardship; gender-based violence; involvement in human trafficking; struggles with mental health and/or addiction’ religious and/or social stigma; sexual violence such as rape or incest; and

Whereas these factors could also contribute to individuals being unable to access services within the system such as abortion or adoption; and

Whereas stigmatizing the need for a person to surrender a baby without question or penalty has led to babies being left in unsafe situations, resulting in the otherwise preventable death of some infants; and

Whereas while the preservation of birth parent information, relationships and cultural backgrounds are all very important, saving the life of the infant in these dire situations must be the first priority; and

Whereas Hope’s Cradle is a safe alternative to an unsafe abandonment, serving as a last resort for birth parents and infants who need it; and

Whereas alternatives that encourage prevention of unsafe abandonment will save the lives of these infants;

Now therefore be it resolved that staff be requested to work with appropriate agencies and report back to council with recommendation for the implementation of Hope’s Cradle in a central location in Sault Ste. Marie.

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David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans seven decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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