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UN condemns 'baby boxes' across Europe

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Social workers often disagree. Edite Kaņepaja-Vanaga, co-manager of Latvia's baby box program, thinks that it is a "solution to a problem for which another alternative has not yet been found." It is an option of last resort, she says, when no information on where to find psychological and practical support can prevent parents from leaving their baby. "Even in front of the baby box door, parents are asked to think again – are you really ready to abandon your own baby?”

When Ms. Kanepaja-Vanaga started researching baby boxes in Latvia in 2006, nine abandoned babies were found dead that year. Since the country opened its first baby box in 2009, the number was reduced to four. Another 17 babies were saved from the boxes, out of which 12 have been officially adopted and the others are all in the process of finding a new home. Two mothers showed interest in having their babies returned, but they have not yet taken any action to move the process forward.

Cristina Tango, Children’s Rights Assistant for the International Reference Center for the Rights of Children Deprived of their Family (IRC), agrees that baby boxes are a measure of last resort. “The issue is very delicate and controversial; different economic and social grounds may lead mothers to abandon their baby," she says. "These women are, in general, victims of a lack of adequate social networks and state public services. In the absence of such services, these boxes are a plausible solution to ensure the child's survival and guarantee women's rights.”

The Czech Republic is a case in point. There are currently 50 baby boxes scattered across the country, with more to come, recovering 75 babies since 2005.

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