The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which reports on how well governments respect and protect children’s human rights, is alarmed at the prevalence of the hatches – usually outside a hospital – which allow unwanted newborns to be left in boxes with an alarm or bell to summon a carer.
The committee, a group of 18 international human rights experts based in Geneva, says that while “foundling wheels” and baby hatches had disappeared from Europe in the last century, almost 200 have been installed across the continent in the past decade in nations as diverse as Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Poland, Czech Republic and Latvia. Since 2000, more than 400 children have been abandoned in the hatches, with faith groups and right-wing politicians spearheading the revival in the controversial practice.
Herczog, a prominent child psychologist from Hungary, says baby boxes should be replaced by better state provision of family planning, counselling for women and support for unplanned pregnancies.
“There is growing evidence that it is frequently men or relatives abandoning the child, raising questions about the mother’s whereabouts and whether she has consented to giving up her baby,” he said.