Monday, 25 June 2012

Child abandonment in the UK - A NEGLECTED ISSUE

I read Mark Pack's article today on how we treat babies poorly when it comes to childcare. I was reminded of a paper I read whilst researching parental aggression whilst doing my Masters degree. It stuck in my mind because of the tragic waste of it all, so I wrote this.
Another tragic baby abandonment case
Recently, I read in the news that there was another tragic case of a baby being found abandoned, dead in Scunthorpe. As a member of the human race, I find this story absolutely tragic and distressing; a terrible waste of a life. Yet I find that it's an under reported problem in Britain today. There were in fact been THREE cases involving vulnerable young mothers and newborns in the same week. See
I wondered about three issues :-
1. Is there no safe place where babies can be left by those young mothers who for one reason or another are psychologically distressed, so that infants are not left on doorsteps, like the safe havens one finds in America and Europe?
Apparently, because it's against the law for babies to be abandoned, an end to the matter. No provision is made for persons in mental distress, vulnerable youngsters and the like. Disgraceful. The law on this issue hasn't been updated in many years.  C.f. Offences against the Person Act 1861
2. What guidelines do hospitals/the NHS have on this issue?
I found a useful paper on the subject in:-
Believe it or not, as of 2009 when the last study was done, there is "no specific UK national policy on abandoned babies." According to the 2009 study, neither do the Royal College of Midwives or the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists! Out of 170 health authorities, 3 had guidelines! I could find no update of the figures after 2009, which suggests that this issue may have been overlooked in the changeover from a Labour to our Coalition government.
3. What do the official statistics say about this issue?
Another black hole in the statistics, because they aren't collected as such. Believe it or not, in 2009 the writers of the above report couldn't even find a single national statistic quoting the number of abandoned babies discovered per year. As for studying the reasons why vulnerable mothers do this, again I could find no more recent studies of this tragic phenomenon. If anyone does know of any research in Britain (because other countries seem to be slightly more enlightened) I would like to hear about it.

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