Child abandonment in Europe is neglected issue, say researchers

May 29, 2012

Researchers have called for a consistent and supportive approach to child abandonment in Europe to protect the welfare of the hundreds of youngsters given up by their parents every year.

Academics from the Centre for Forensic and at The University of Nottingham conducted a two-year project exploring child abandonment and its prevention across the 27 countries of the .

The study, funded by the ’s Daphne programme, looked at children who were both openly left for adoption at maternity units and those secretly abandoned, including the use of controversial ‘baby hatches’ in some European countries to allow mothers to leave their babies anonymously.

Professor Kevin Browne, who led the study, said: “Article 7 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) clearly states that every child has the right to know and be cared for by his or her . When a child is abandoned, this right is violated. Infants and young children are those most at risk of being abandoned and the rates of child abandonment within the EU are concerning, especially in the current economic climate.”

“Child abandonment is a neglected issue in . Few countries keep national records regarding the number of children abandoned, abandonment is seldom legally defined in legislation, and very little research exists regarding the extent, causes and consequences of this phenomenon.”

“What is required is a consistent and supportive approach to children in need across Europe.”

Exploring the extent of abandonment

The researchers interviewed staff from 100 maternity units and 100 prevention programmes across 10 partner countries — Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and the UK — to explore the extent of child abandonment, its causes, its consequences and good practice in terms of prevention.

Government departments and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the remainder of the EU were contacted for information relating to child abandonment in their countries.

Of the 22 countries which responded, Slovakia had the highest number of children aged up to three years old who were openly given up for adoption at 4.9 per 1,000 live births, followed by the Czech Republic (4.1 per 1,000 live births), Latvia (3.9 per 1,000 live births) and Poland (3.7 per 1,000 live births).

The researchers found little information regarding the number of children secretly abandoned outdoors or in public spaces but some countries did keep national records of children abandoned by their mothers in maternity units.

Institutional care

Romania had the highest number of children abandoned per year at maternity units with 8.6 per 1,000 live births, followed by Slovakia (3.3 per 1,000 live births), Poland and Lithuania (1.7 per 1,000 live births) and France (1 per 1,000 ). They found that a child being left in a maternity unit is one of the key reasons why children under the age of three are placed into institutional care.

The approaches to addressing secret child abandonment across the EU vary. In some countries it is no longer illegal to abandon a child, provided that the child is left in a safe place.

Of the 27 EU member countries, 11 still have ‘baby hatches’ in operation — Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal and Slovakia — a practice which dates back to medieval times.

The study found that although the assumption is that it is the mother who leaves her infant at a baby hatch, there is growing evidence that it is frequently men or relatives abandoning the child, raising questions about the mother’s whereabouts and whether she has consented to giving up her baby.
 
Maternal consent questions

The anonymous nature of the hatches also have further implications, among them the lack of information about the child’s family medical history and the lack of opportunity for the baby to remain with its family in the care of other relatives.

The research found that the Czech Republic and Lithuania both have an average of 7 infants left in baby hatches per year, followed by Poland with 6 and Hungary and Slovakia with 4.

In France and Holland, women have the right to remain anonymous to their babies after giving birth, while in the UK it remains a crime to secretly abandon a child and no such comparable birthing laws exist. Previous UK research has identified 124 cases of secret infant abandonment across the UK between 1998 and 2005.

Further information about the project can be found on the web at www.nottingham.ac.uk/iwho/research/projects/childabandonment/index.aspx

Explore further: Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study: When a child's birth is unplanned

Apr 30, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- One-third of all children born in the United States are the result of unintended pregnancies and not only do these children receive less attention and warmth from their parents than children whose births ...

Recommended for you

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

12 hours ago

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

15 hours ago

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

Apr 16, 2014

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Roman dig 'transforms understanding' of ancient port

(Phys.org) —Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Southampton have discovered a new section of the boundary wall of the ancient Roman port of Ostia, proving the city was much larger than previously ...

Crowd-sourcing Britain's Bronze Age

A new joint project by the British Museum and the UCL Institute of Archaeology is seeking online contributions from members of the public to enhance a major British Bronze Age archive and artefact collection.

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...