Canada’s first-ever safe surrender baby box not affiliated with a hospital has been installed in a fire station in Strathmore, Alberta.
Safe surrender boxes are a fixture in many communities throughout the United States, often associated with the Safe Haven Baby Boxes organization. This Canadian counterpart is based on the same idea, providing a safe, climate-controlled environment for a parent to surrender their infant. Once an infant is placed inside, an alarm is activated and emergency personnel immediately retrieve the baby.
The project, called Hope’s Cradle, was spearheaded by Eric Alexander, Captain of the Strathmore Fire Department. Alexander said that the tragic case of an infant who was found dead in a dumpster on Christmas Eve in Calgary in 2017 spurred him to action, as he himself was a new father at the time.
While each U.S. state has safe haven laws that allow a parent to legally surrender an infant within a certain period of time, Canada does not have the same kind of legislation. Alexander wanted to install a baby box, but there was the worry of whether or not a parent could be prosecuted for giving up an infant. He said that it took some effort to find success.
“I saw a news story of a not-for-profit organization in the United States that had these Safe Haven baby boxes, so I contacted them, and found out there’s a lot of legal differences between the United States and Canada, as far as Safe Haven abandonment laws go. It wasn’t quite as simple for us just to grab their project and work with it up here, so we kind of had to make our own that suits the Canadian laws system.”
Ultimately, he was able to install the box with the stipulation that as long as there are no signs of neglect or abuse, the mother will not be charged. “We want to ensure that expectant mothers know that their anonymity will be protected and will not be released under any circumstances, as long as the child is surrendered without signs of neglect or abuse,” he said.
Alexander also noted that while there are no safe haven laws in his country, he believes infant abandonment is a very big problem, especially in rural areas. “In my conversation with Calgary Police Service Members, they’re of the strong belief that babies are abandoned a lot more frequently than we know and often in rural locations,” he said. “Their bodies are most likely never found, so they were in full support and thought that it would be a great initiative and also, hopefully, capture those ones that we still might not know about that have been abandoned elsewhere.”
Alexander worked with a charity organization called Gems for Gems in funding and installing what he hopes is just the first of many boxes. “We are really hoping that it takes off and, in 10 years, we’ll see them East Coast to West Coast through Canada.”
There are at least two “Angel Cradles” affiliated with hospitals, in Edmonton, Alberta, where parents may also anonymously surrender their newborns without penalty.
Editor’s Note: This article originally stated that this was the first baby box in Canada. In actuality, it is the first baby box installed with first responders which are not affiliated with a hospital in Canada. We regret the error.
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