Baby Boxes

The Baby Boxes

It inspires me that one day a regular guy takes a stand and says “no more”, puts himself at financial risk, takes on Czech officialdom and battles dogma in a LITERAL life or death struggle.

czech baby boxes
A simple idea to combat a complicated problem

What’s It For and Where Does The Idea Come From?

A baby box is simply a safe but temporary place for a newborn baby to be abandoned. You can trace the history of places where babies can be abandoned in a reasonably safe way back to the 12th Century when it was basically a small door on the side of a convent with a bell to sound it’s use. Or even the 5th Century in France where churches contained a special marble bowl where a child could be left.

Why The Modern Baby Boxes Version?

You don’t have to search online for too long to find “newborn found dead in park”, “newborn found dead in waste bin” etc etc. It’s a horrible thought that the mother felt that there was absolutely no support or other option than to allow the child to die in appalling conditions. In 2003 a guy called Ludvik Hess had a wish “that no newborn would ever again be found dead in this manner”. So he built baby boxes. The old “pull down the door” style was replaced by the modern “automated, non-collision” version from 2011.

first czech baby box

How Does It Work?

There is now a foundation called STATIM that funds the process whereby each baby box costs approximately £32,000. The box itself allows for the newborn baby to be placed inside. The modern version then detects the weight of the child and automatically begins a heating and ventilation process. With a delay of 30 seconds an alarm notifies nursing staff that a baby has been left. They then collect it from their side of the wall and begin the necessary checks and treatment as required. This delay and the quiet location of the baby boxes ensures the person abandoning the child can remain anonymous even though there are contact numbers listed and leaflet advice about coming forward later.

It was thought that it might be one or two “per year” so the first of three baby boxes was installed at a private Gynecological Hospital (GynCentrum) in Prague and made operational on June 1st 2005 (International Children’s Day). It has since received 23 abandoned babies.

The First One

ludvik hess holding sona, first baby box rescue

It was nine months after the first baby box was installed that the alarm sounded on February 17th 2006. It must have been a shock to the nursing staff. As the box was opened there was a little girl, just under a month old with a letter from the mother stating that she was one of twins and as a single mother it was more than she could cope with. The letter also asked that she be adopted by a couple who had spent at least 10 years trying to conceive. In this case the mother stayed within sight of the box so she was sure that she would not be left. The girl already had a name, Sonia.

The Social Argument

At first, State hospitals refused permission to build baby boxes. It would “encourage abandonment”, “discourage contraception”, “discourage official contact” etc etc. There was also the various “rights of the child” to be argued over. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child highlighted in its recommendation, where it calls on the state to address the causes of abandonment of newborns, including support and assistance for unplanned and unwanted pregnancies. The UN also states that: “States Parties shall take all necessary measures to protect the child against all forms of discrimination or punishment resulting from the status, activity, opinions or beliefs of its parents, Legal guardians or family members.

Ludvik Hess considered the “right to life” must be possible before all others could be granted.

Graphics on the page all come from BabyBox http://www.babybox.cz/. The website is in Czech but a little use of Google Translator will open the world of how Baby Boxes in Czech got started and how the system continues to grow.

Number of Baby Boxes in Czech is currently 87. Number of babies saved is 260.

Statistics showing the dates of all the baby box retrievals, days of week, month of the year, boys or girls are published on the Babybox Statistics document. It shows things like the most popular day of the week for a babybox to be used is Tuesday. The most popular time is between 4pm and 8pm. If you use the Google Chrome browser then install the translation add-on and you’ll be able to read the Interview with Ludvik Hess in September 2021 where he talks about the fate of some of the children, Guardianship court, placement of children and even returning children to the mother. Do you have a Baby Box near you and have you ever wondered why?

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