Hopeless Chinese parents grieve as they abandon disabled, sick, and female children at “baby hatches”

Baby hatches are one way some in China are trying to save lives.

China’s one-child policy and male child preference continue to have devastating effects on families across the country. Parents frequently turn to abortion (or are forced to abort), abandonment, gendercide, and illegal adoptions to obey the one-child policy. The abandonment of female infants is especially common, as well as abandonment of sick or disabled children whose medical needs cannot be supported by rural families living in extreme poverty.

To encourage an alternative to infant abandonment, China’s welfare services have created a “baby hatch” initiative. Desperate parents can bring children they cannot support, or are not allowed to support, to the baby hatch and leave them there for a social worker to collect and take to a home run by welfare services. Parents literally walk into a small room (the “hatch”), leave the child in a crib, and walk away. Infrared cameras detect movement in the rooms, alerting welfare workers to come and collect the child.

The U.K.’s Daily Mail recently featured heartbreaking images of grieving parents parting with their babies forever. Many of the babies documented had illnesses or disabilities that the parents could not afford to have treated on their own. The Daily Mail also acknowledges the prevalence of abandoned girls in the face of the “bias for sons.”

China’s CCTV News featured the following segment about Chinese baby hatches. There are 25 hatches across China’s 10 provinces and major cities.

The response to baby hatches as China’s alternative to abandonment was so powerful that, just a couple of months into the program, the hatches had to be temporarily closed to new babies because welfare services became overwhelmed by the thousands of children it received when the initiative was introduced.

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