Catholic program for abandoned babies may have saved Edmonton newborn

A newborn baby was abandoned this year in the Angel Cradle drop-off point at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital in Edmonton for the first time since the program began in 2013. (CNS photo/Lincoln Ho, Grandin Media) A newborn baby was abandoned this year in the Angel Cradle drop-off point at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital in Edmonton for the first time since the program began in 2013. (CNS photo/Lincoln Ho, Grandin Media)

EDMONTON, Alberta (CNS) -- A safe-haven program called Angel Cradle, operated by Covenant Health, may have saved a newborn baby's life.

A healthy baby was dropped off at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital in Edmonton within the past six months under the Angel Cradle program that lets parents anonymously leave a baby in a cradle within a doorway.

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It was the first time a baby has been abandoned under the Angel Cradle program since it began in Edmonton in May 2013 and it is proof that the program is working, said a spokesman for Covenant Health, which operates the Angel Cradle at Grey Nuns and Misericordia hospitals.

"In light of Catholic social teaching, our mission is to meet the needs of the most vulnerable and, in this case, there was a positive outcome," said Gordon Self, vice president of mission, ethics and spirituality.

"We can't lose sight of the desperate circumstances that would lead to this decision, and we have to remember that this person chose to leave their baby in a safe environment. The Angel Cradle program helps prevent situations from being very tragic, which happens as we know," he said.

"In light of Catholic social teaching, our mission is to meet the needs of the most vulnerable."

A blue door marks the drop-off point by the emergency departments. Inside is a cradle for the baby. Within 30 seconds, a sensor alerts emergency department staff. The baby is then checked by doctors and nurses and placed in the care of the Ministry of Children's Services. 

"Nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of children," said Zoe Cooper, a spokewoman for the Ministry of Children's Services.

Cooper said ministry staff work with Alberta Health Services to provide temporary care for the baby, and to locate the parents. If they cannot be located, the child will go into government care, where the goal is to find the child a permanent home.

As long as the baby is unharmed, police will not be involved.

Covenant Health based its program on the Angel's Cradle program at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver. There, the Angel's Cradle has been used twice since its inception: the first in 2010; the second in 2013. Both babies were healthy.

"We know that we don't live in a perfect world. Life is complicated for people, so this program asks, 'How can we help?'" said Christopher De Bono, vice president of mission, ethics, spirituality and indigenous wellness for Providence Health Care.

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