Construction of a Hope’s Cradle is set to begin Saturday at the fire station in Strathmore, offering a last resort option for parents who don’t feel they are able to care for a newborn.
The impetus for the project came in 2017 after a baby was found abandoned in a Calgary dumpster on Christmas Eve.
“As a new father this hit me pretty hard and it weighed heavy on my mind … and I thought, what can we do to not have this happen anymore?” said Strathmore Fire Department Capt. Eric Alexander during a presentation to town council this week.
“I thought about it and thought about it and a few weeks later another story news aired about Safe Haven baby boxes in the United States … my wife looked at me and said, ‘Why don’t you guys do that?”
That lead to conversations with Safe Haven, along with officials from the Town of Strathmore and Alberta Health Services.
AHS is supportive, said Alexander, however the provincial health agency won’t be involved in the setup or administering of the Hope’s Cradle.
After working on the project for more than two years, Alexander was approached by a Calgary-based charity, Gems for Gems, four months ago, which was exploring the same idea.
The program will work similar to Angel’s Cradle, which is run by Covenant Health at Grey Nun’s Community Hospital and Misericordia Community Hospital in Edmonton.
Considered an anonymous last resort, the door is locked and an alarm triggered when a child is placed in the cradle, explained Gems for Gems CEO Jordan Guildford.
A stamped envelope will also be there for the person leaving the child, allowing them to submit a form about the parent’s medical history. Information on resources and supports available will also be in the envelope, along with an option for the mother or parent to write a letter to the child.
“(To explain) her situation, what she hopes for her baby, maybe something about herself, whatever she wants to put in it,” said Guildford.
Leaving a baby in a safe place will not result in criminal charges, unless the child is injured.
The cost of installing the Hope’s Cradle in Strathmore will be about $20,000, said Guildford, with that amount being split between the charity and the Strathmore Emergency Services Members Association.
Strathmore will be the first fire station in Canada outfitted with a Hope’s Cradle, and Guildford says the goal is to expand the program across the country. Construction is expected to be complete by Dec. 18.
Once a baby is left in a Hope’s Cradle, the parent has 30 days to contact authorities if they want to change their decision.