“Baby Hatches” Aim to Protect Sick and Disabled
For Reuters, Li Hui and Ben Blanchard report that under a new scheme of “baby hatches” or “baby safety islands” aimed at protecting unwanted offspring, abandoned children tend to be of both genders (not just girls, as was typical for years) and are typically sick or disabled:
Government officials say baby hatches are needed because of the illnesses and disabilities, often in need of immediate medical attention. Each province has to set up a minimum of two by the end of the year.
“With more and more disabled children, it could mean they die if we find them 10 minutes late,” said Ji Gang, an official with the China Centre for Children’s Welfare and Adoption.
Baby hatches have sparked concern among some they may encourage more parents to abandon babies. Some were busy when they opened, under the media spotlight, but the numbers soon dropped off, welfare officials said.
“Child abandonment exists. Baby hatches won’t encourage more parents to abandon children,” said Wang Zhenyao, a social welfare expert. “They will only provide more accurate numbers.” [Source]
In December, The Telegraph’s Malcolm Moore visited one such shelter in Shenzhen – the controversial policy now has the support of the central government and is being implemented nationwide:
“We had been studying how to improve the situation for a long time,” said Tang Rongsheng, the recently departed head of the city’s Social Welfare centre, where abandoned children, if they are lucky, are taken in and cared for.
“But when we suggested the baby shelter in June, there was a lot of criticism that I was teaching people how to commit a crime. There have been a lot of wild accusations. Some have suggested that the number of abandonments will shoot up, others that baby traffickers will lie in wait outside the shelter and steal infants.” Six months after the initial announcement, the baby shelter outside Mr Tang’s Social Welfare centre remains unfurnished; the public outcry was strong enough to stall its completion.
[...] “Abandoning a baby is a crime in our country,” said Peng Xizhe, a professor at Fudan university who specialises in public policy and social development.
“But during the process of committing this crime, babies are the victims. Since the root of the crime which is caused by various complicated issues cannot be solved in the blink of an eye, it is a good option to shift our focus to protecting those victims.” [Source]