‘Baby hatch’ forced to stop taking children after hundreds of infants are abandoned

Welfare facility in Guangzhou takes in 262 infants in six weeks, many of them ill or disabled, and says it can't handle more

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 March, 2014, 11:50am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 March, 2014, 6:43am

A "hatch" where parents can leave unwanted babies in Guangzhou has been forced to temporarily suspend service after government welfare authorities ran out of beds for the infants.

People have left 262 babies at the hatch since it opened on January 28, said Xu Jiu, director of the city's welfare centre for children and which runs the service, China News Service reported.

Xu told a press conference on Sunday the centre had added 100 beds to its normal capacity of about 1,000, but they were full, according to the report.

Xu said it was not clear when the centre would be able to start accepting infants again - and he warned that if parents tried to abandon their children with the service authorities would alert police and hand over surveillance footage.

Abandoning children is illegal on the mainland, but centres where parents can anonymously leave babies have been set up to provide proper care for the infants who may otherwise simply be dumped on the street.

About 25 such hatches have been established on the mainland in 10 provinces and major cities. Parents can leave their child at the Guangzhou one, press an alarm, and a few minutes after they have gone welfare staff come to collect the child.

The creation of the centres has been controversial with some critics arguing they encourage parents to abandon their children.

All the babies left at the Guangzhou centre were ill or had disabilities.

Preliminary medical examination showed 42 per cent had cerebral palsy, 15 per cent Down's syndrome and 12 per cent congenital heart disease.

All have now received medical treatment, but 9 per cent of the abandoned babies died, Xu was quoted as saying.

The authorities are also worried that any new arrivals would increase the risk of disease at the centre because there were not enough spaces to isolate the newly arrived babies from children already under care, the report said.

The centre did not respond to a request to see whether more babies had been abandoned yesterday.

Ye Fen , the director of social welfare in the civil affairs bureau, said the city would provide financial aid to poor families with newborns who were ill to reduce the number of abandoned children.

The local government was also considering giving free medical treatment to young children born with a disease or disability, she said.