Category: Current Affairs
Published on Friday, 04 April 2014 00:00
There are so many kids all around the world that are ill-treated and abused because their parents have never wanted them or hardly loved them from the get go. Then there are the loving parents who are willing to do anything and give up everything for their children, but what if sacrificing everything they have to their name is still not enough? Parents stricken by poverty in China have resorted to leaving their beloved babies at “baby hatches” so that their children have the opportunity to be adopted by more fortunate families and lead better lives. This is all at the cost of a thoroughly shattered heart.
China has made abandoning children illegal, so baby hatches were introduced to encourage parents to leave their babies in a safe and warm place anonymously, rather than abandoning them in the streets or rubbish bins.
A center in Guangzhou – Baby Safety Island (婴儿安全岛) – is one of 25 such hatch facilities in mainland China, and images taken show the last, heartbreaking moments before parents give up their infants most of the time due to poverty or an inability to provide for a child with a disease or disability.
Residents visit an abandoned baby lying in a crib at the baby hatch in Guiyang, Guizhou province
Some might think that these baby hatches are a great way for preventing unwanted babies from dying out in the streets, but critics argue that it encourages drastic action and believe some parents may feel it is more socially acceptable to abandon their children.
Baby Safety Island opened its doors to abandoned babies just this year in January but was forced to close just two months later after becoming inundated with too many babies – 262 abandoned juveniles – all of whom are ill or disabled.
The hatch room is furnished with a cot, an incubator, an air-conditioner and an infra-red sensor to alert staff when a baby has been placed there
A parent typically opens a door and places their infant in a small room that contains a cot and an incubator, rings a bell and leaves. Minutes later welfare services collect the child and begin the task of finding it a new home, most likely in an orphanage.
These are scenes that can make anyone feel sick at heart. The last farewell to their precious children for them is not one that they feel is made by choice, but what they believe is necessary for the well-being of their offspring. Parents tragically clutch to their children for the last time as they cry their hearts out, nothing but despair and anguish exudes from their very core.
A woman cuddling her tiny infant who has Down's syndrome, crouches and pours her eyes out between security guards and a family member in front of a baby hatch
“My baby cannot take care of itself when it grows up,” one woman cries, explaining that her infant has Down’s syndrome. ‘I just want my baby to survive,” she tells the Information Times newspaper based in Guangzhou. After which, she and an accompanying female friend leave, both in tears.
A father sorrowfully kisses his child wrapped up tightly in a blanket with only one severely skinny leg showing.
A mother tenderly cradles her hooded baby as she prepares to step into the last door they will ever go through together.
A mother collapses to the floor in grief, wailing at the thought of tearing herself away from her son forever in just moments.
And yet, more parents continue coming in to have their hearts broken at the prospect of giving their children a better life.
An uncle deposits his niece at the center. She is suffering from leukemia and her parents cannot afford to pay her medical bills, neither can they bring themselves to see their daughter off with the thought that they will never know what her future will bring. The uncle says that her parents are waiting in a car nearby, too distraught to say goodbye. As the uncle walks away sadly from his niece, the girl starts to cry.
A couple carrying their infant son diagnosed with Pierre Robin syndrome – congenital condition of facial abnormalities in humans – walk in, hiding their faces behind surgical masks. They have traveled for more than an hour to the Guangzhou facility. “It would be better for the baby if he stays in your center,” the father tells security. “We cannot afford to raise him.” They then leave a note and several hundred yuan before disappearing into the night.
Last month the welfare home's director Xu Jiu announced the suspension and told Xinhua news agency: “I hope everyone understands the difficulties the welfare center face.”
“We are temporarily closing the centre [to new babies] so that we can properly care for the infants already at the centre,” Xu Jiu explained.
The center, which also cares for orphans, has 1,000 beds. You might think that that is a lot of beds and the facility probably has enough amenities for more children. However, when you think about it in the grand scheme of things, it is unfortunately not.
China says it has 576,000 orphans in its child welfare system though outside groups put the number at closer to a million
An approximate 10,000 children are being abandoned in China every year, said Wang Zhenyao, president of the China Welfare Research Institute at Beijing Normal University. Media reports say many of these are girls and disabled children.
Abandonment is also a result of China's one-child policy and a traditional bias for sons, who support elderly parents and continue the family name, leading to the abandonment of girls.
What will the future hold for these abandoned children?
Even as China starts to relax the one-child policy, allowing millions of families to have a second child, it still penalizes people who flout the rules.
This is the tragedy that we who lead relatively sheltered lives do not see often. When we get angry with our parents for spoiling something of ours, the young ones in China are being given up to orphanages out of their parents' love, and this would mean that they might never ever see their biological parents at all again.
Check out the video below to find out more about China's baby hatches.
Please share this article with your family and friends to spread the awareness of China's unfortunate little darlings.