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More help urged for women facing unexpected pregnancy after mother charged in Calgary

More help urged for women facing unexpected pregnancy in light of charges against Calgary mother
WATCH: The tragic story of an abandoned newborn found dead in Calgary is prompting greater awareness about resources in Calgary for parents unsure if they can care for a baby.

There are calls to set up safe drop-off locations for newborns in Calgary after police announced Thursday they had charged a 21-year old woman in connection with a newborn baby who was found dead two years ago.

The infant was found in a garbage bin in the northwest community of Bowness on Dec. 24, 2017.

READ MORE: Mother charged in 2017 case of baby found dead in Calgary dumpster on Christmas Eve

There are two safe drop-off locations for babies in Alberta now. They are both in Edmonton — at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital and Misericordia Community Hospital run by Covenant Health.

Both were installed in 2013 after a hospital in Vancouver implemented a similar system.

According to Alberta Health Services, the Angel Cradle Program offers a safe place for parents to anonymously give up their child. The service offers a “last resort option” for parents who feel they cannot keep their newborn baby.

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READ MORE: 1 baby dropped off at Angel Cradle at Edmonton hospital in last 6 months: ‘This is meant to be a last-resort option’

Calgary forensic psychologist Dr. Patrick Baillie said a similar program should be established in Calgary.

“It introduces the option of a positive way of resolving a very personal dilemma, that a woman would have the availability of a safe place for this child to be left, where the child is going to be cared for so mom doesn’t have to deal with potentially negative consequences of death.

“And, for whatever reason, a woman who is in that desperate a situation has an option that is available to her that allows for the viability of the child while protecting her anonymity,” Baillie said.

With the Angel Cradle service, a delayed alarm is triggered after the child is placed in the cradle, to give the adult time to walk away.

WATCH (Dec. 28, 2017): A closer look at Edmonton’s Angel Cradle Service

A closer look at Edmonton’s Angel Cradle Service
A closer look at Edmonton’s Angel Cradle Service

According to Covenant Health, in 2013 the organization did a review based on clinical experience with incidents of newborn abandonment. As a result, Covenant Health developed a newborn safe haven to augment the existing clinical and social service supports for people at risk.

“There are excellent social services and obstetrical care providers in the community to help people at risk.

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“Still, for reasons we don’t fully understand, incidents of people hiding their pregnancies and unsafe abandonment do occur, and our hope is a newborn safe haven can help prevent a tragic outcome. Newborn safe havens are intended to augment the existing safety net; as a last resort option,” said Gordon Self, chief mission and ethics officer for Covenant Health, in a statement to Global News on Friday.

Self said since their opening, the Angel Cradles in Edmonton have been used once for a healthy newborn.

READ MORE: Psychologist urges sympathy for mother of newborn abandoned in Calgary Christmas Eve

In a statement to Global News on Friday Alberta Health Services said it is in the process of creating ways to better connect pregnant women with options well in advance of them feeling they have no supports.

“Infant abandonment is a very rare occurrence and our focus is currently on early interventions to provide pregnant women with options and support prior to giving birth.

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“A consultation process is underway to determine how best to meet mother and infant needs. Alberta Health Services (AHS) has been engaging stakeholders within AHS and community services to enhance its strategy regarding infant abandonment. This includes exploration of establishing an angel cradle, as well as other options, which include enhancing community resources such as prenatal supports.”

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The criminal charges laid against the young mother have left some calling for more supports for pregnant women dealing with abuse, homelessness, addictions and mental health issues.

“I think we need to look at the social problems that created that situation,” said Jutta Wittmeier, executive director at the Calgary Pregnancy Care Centre.

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“Instead of looking at the results, I think we need to look at what could the community have done differently?

“Because we see lots of areas where women are unsupported at a very vulnerable time.”