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'Safe havens' close down due to too many abandoned babies

2015-03-25 16:12 chinadaily.com.cn Web Editor: Si Huan

Many "Safe havens", facilities set up to adopt abandoned babies across China, have closed down because too many babies were abandoned at the facilities since they were opened, reported Beijing News on Wednesday.

Since China's first baby hatch was put into use in 2011 in North China's Hebei province, 32 such shelters have been opened across the country.

But many of the baby hatches soon found they were overwhelmed with abandoned babies.

Guangzhou Children Welfare Center set up a "safe haven" in January 2014, and it was forced to shut down the facility two months later because it was unable to support more babies after 262 were left at the shelter during that period.

The same challenge also faced the "safe haven" in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, which, during the first three months since its operation, received more than 140 babies, the equivalent to the total amount of the previous year.

Shortages of nurses and funds are the main difficulty baby hatches face, said an insider.

"We are short-staffed, but it's hard to recruit new nurses as the pay is not attractive enough," said an anonymous staffer of Xiamen Children Welfare Center.

While baby hatches in large cities are overwhelmed with abandoned babies, some facilities in less developed areas are receiving much fewer unwanted babies.

The baby hatch in Tongren, a city in Southwest China's Guizhou province, only received several babies each year since it was opened, partly as a result of its remote location.

Many parents left their disabled or sick kids at shelters in cities in developed areas hoping that their children will receive better medical treatment, which put more pressure on baby hatches there, said Tong Xiaojun, the head of the Children's Research Institute of China.

"If 'safe havens' can be set up in more places across the country, it can relieve the pressure off those in large cities," said Tong.

Other experts believed that a tougher attitude against irresponsible abandoning is the key to the sustainable development of baby hatches.

Asked whether the baby hatch encourages parents to evade their duty, Gao Huajun, a professor of public welfare with Beijing Normal University, said: "every policy has its positive side and negative side. We should not close the baby hatch because there are negative consequences."

Stricter screening should be carried out to prevent parents capable of raising their kids from avoiding their responsibility, said Yang Jianhua, an expert on social issues.

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