It’s considered a destination of last resort. A baby bassinet in a safely secure room for an abandoned newborn to have a chance at survival.
Dave Sweet works in the homicide unit at the Calgary Police Service and he said it’s a troubling issue that’s hard to measure.
“I truly believe we scratch the tip of the iceberg when we come across babies found in dumpsters or in the backs of cars,” he said. “Because I think we only find a small percentage of children that end up with that fate.”
Because of the things Sweet has seen, he has recognized a need to make a difference. Sweet is also the board chair for Gems for Gems. The charity is working with the officer to make an initiative called Hope’s Cradle a reality.
“It makes you realize there’s things we can do to prevent it,” Sweet said.
“Wouldn’t it be grim if the only thing we did is take babies out of dumpsters and move to the next investigation.”
The plan is to scale this project to fire stations across the province. Inside the room will be a baby bassinet, along with an envelope of resources for mom and an opportunity for her to write her baby a letter.
“It’s not just a surrender,” Sweet said.
“There’s a huge component to what’s going on mentally with the mom and it’s important to recognize the gravity of the decision she’s making to Hope’s Cradle.”
Gems for Gems founder Jordan Guildford said the concept will include space for the mother or guardian to say their goodbyes.
“We understand it is with great difficulty a mom comes to this decision and we want them to understand there will be no cameras, it will be poorly lit and your anonymity will be completely protected,” Guildford said.
The idea is especially supported by Teanna Elliot who was known as “Baby Mary.” She was abandoned in a Calgary parking lot in 1987. She nearly died.
“It brought up a lot of emotions and it hits so close to home,” Elliot said. “It could save a lot of lives because they don’t always have a positive outcome.
“It could have been me.”
Elliot was adopted by a loving family and is now a mom herself, living in Kelowna, B.C. She supports this concept because not only will it save the lives of babies, but it’s also a lifeline for birth moms.
“I feel like she (my birth mom) did something so selfless. She didn’t know what to do. She was scared and had nowhere to go. She was 19,” Elliot said.
“To know there is a safe space, if you need it, is just incredible.”
Having an anonymous space for desperate moms to surrender their babies isn’t new. There are similar units in Edmonton and Vancouver, but this will be a first in southern Alberta.
“The mother will have 30 days to be able to reclaim her baby, and if the child is unharmed, there will be no legal repercussions. The mother will not be pursued at all,” Guildford said.
It will be installed at a fire station.
“When the mom or guardian closes the door it will lock. Once the door is closed, an alarm will go off and in two minutes someone from the fire station will come and collect the baby. The reason we partner with a fire station is because there will always be someone there with medical know-how,” Guildford said.
They are looking for support to help scale this plan.
“Part of it feels surreal and it’s heartbreaking,” Guildford said. “No matter how great this is to have community support we are grounded in sadness that make this initiative needed in the first place.”
The plan is for Hope’s Cradle to be up and running by December.