A fire hall in southern Manitoba will soon offer a safe site for any mother wanting to surrender their newborn child.
Susan Penner of Steinbach is the Executive Director for Life Culture Canada. She says the Landmark Fire Hall, in Landmark, Man., will become the first Hope's Cradle safe surrender site in all of Manitoba. Only one other site exists in Canada; that one opened last year in Strathmore, Alberta.
Penner explains that Hope's Cradle is an anonymous and safe place where an infant can be safely surrendered. Inside is a temperature-controlled bassinet and documentation that informs the parent, usually the mother, of her rights, how the process works, a form to send in about medical history, and a list of resources. Once the door is opened, the parent has two minutes to place the baby in the cradle and vacate the site before a silent alarm is sent to first responders.
"This is really a last resort for women in desperate circumstances," notes Penner.
She says there is a period of time where if she changes her mind, she can come forward and claim the baby as her own.
"Whether it's because maybe she's in danger, that might be a reason if she needs a safe place for the baby temporarily," explains Penner. "Or, if she just can't manage it, that's also an option and then she will be surrendering the baby."
Tache Fire Chief Allan Rau says this has been a collaborative effort.
"Earlier this year, I was approached by Trevor Braun, a member of Tache Fire and was asked if we could place a Hope's Cradle in the Landmark Fire Station," says Rau. "I researched the subject and was immediately in favour of the idea. The proposal was presented to Council and approved. Couldn't be prouder of the RM of Tache."
The $20,000 needed to install the cradle will be raised through Life Culture Canada. Penner anticipates the cradle will be up and running by December or January.
Earlier this spring, a newborn baby girl was found in a dumpster in Winnipeg. Penner says that this tragic situation brought to light that an anonymous, safe surrender site was needed in Manitoba.
"The fact is, we only know about the abandoned babies that are found," she says. "There are others that are abandoned that we don't even know about."
As for placing the Hope's Cradle in Landmark, research from Hope's Cradle indicates that parents are more comfortable surrendering their infant in a rural location due to the perception of anonymity.
"Landmark is a great central location," notes Penner. "It is 30 minutes from Winnipeg and Steinbach, with many communities in between. Although located in Landmark, this is really a regional project. I am hoping that individuals, businesses, and churches in the region will get on board with supporting this initiative."