Covenant Health
This week's reflection

This week's reflection

Stewardship is leaving a system better than you found it.

Michael Barber

Covenant Health Angel Cradles

What are Angel Cradles?
In 2013, Covenant Health introduced a new way to reach Edmontonians in need by opening two newborn safe havens where newborns can be safely abandoned. The Angel Cradles, which are the first in Alberta, are located by the Grey Nuns Community Hospital and Misericordia Community Hospital Emergency Departments.

"The reality is some parents feel they have no other choice if they have hidden their pregnancies or there are other perceived barriers to seeking appropriate help they end up abandoning their child in an unsafe setting," says Dr. Irene Colliton, Family Medicine Chief at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital.

The goal of Covenant Health’s Angel Cradles is to enhance the existing safety net. It does not replace or undermine the quality work provided by community social service agencies. The hospitals will not try to locate the parents of a baby left in the Angel Cradle as long as the baby is unharmed. Child and Family Services will make all attempts to identify and locate the parents—they are obligated to do so by law. Leaving a child in the Angel Cradle is not a criminal offence unless the baby is injured. If a child is left safely in the Angel Cradle, the child’s health will be assessed and the newborn will be placed in the care of Child and Social Services.

 “As a Catholic organization, we draw on our rich history, which has a tradition of providing safety and care to those who are most vulnerable, including abandoned infants,” says Gordon Self, VP Mission, Ethics and Spirituality. "That is why we are so committed to developing services such as Angel Cradle. We certainly support the rights of children to know their parental history, as declared by the World Health Organization, as well as the rights of fathers, but despite the criticism of the WHO regarding baby hatches, we recognize that unsafe abandonment still occurs in our society, and this preventative measure at least gives a child a chance to know its history and be reunited if later the parent(s) comes forward. In a moment of desperation, a rash decision may be made that can have dire consequences."

History of Angel Cradles
Originally known as foundling wheels, newborn safe havens have Catholic roots. In 1198, Pope Innocent III ordered foundling wheels in churches and orphanages after he was disturbed by the number of babies being abandoned in the Tiber River. They tended to fade from history with the development of modern health care and social services, but in recent decades baby hatches began reappearing across Europe and Asia, and safe haven legislation has been enacted in the majority of U.S. states.