Baby abandoned at New York City nativity scene. Does this happen often?

Nativity scene baby: Federal records of abandoned babies aren't kept but one non-profit estimates that 3,000 babies have been saved because of laws that encourage parents to abandon children safely.

(Courtesy Jan Catron/Lazy JV Ranch via AP)
This undated photo provided by Lazy JV Ranch shows, Cottonball, a purebred Nubian goat from Lazy JV Ranch with her shepherd in a nativity scene at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Owensboro, Ky. A baby was abandoned at a New York City church nativity scene on Nov. 24, 2015.

When a custodian at a church in the Richmond Hill neighborhood of Queens, N.Y. returned from lunch on Monday, he heard cries and discovered a surprising sight: a newborn baby, with umbilical cord still attached, resting in the manger at the church’s nativity scene.

The baby, a boy who weighed about five pounds, was taken to a local hospital by emergency crews and appeared to be in good health, Christopher Heanue, pastor of the Holy Child of Jesus Church wrote on the church’s Facebook page. New York police are currently trying to determine who abandoned the infant.

The discovery of this baby highlights the problem of abandoned babies in states across the country, with many lawmakers and activists attempting to grapple with how best to ensure the infants are not injured.

One solution, adopted in New York, takes a more compassionate approach, allowing parents who abandon newborn children up to 30 days old in a safe manner, such as leaving them at a hospital, church, or police or fire station when staff are present, to remain free from prosecution.

An estimated 2,800 babies have been saved by such laws across the country, an Illinois nonprofit found, The Christian Science Monitor reported in April. But about 1,400 other infants have been abandoned illegally, with about two-thirds of them found dead, according to the group, Save the Abandoned Babies Foundation.

Under the NY Abandoned Infant Protection Act, which was originally adopted in 2000 in a wave of similar laws from 45 states, parents could originally abandon unwanted babies of up to five days old. It was amended a decade later to allow parents to leave older children as long as they do so safely. Leaving children without anyone present, such as in the case in Queens, is still a crime.

In Indiana, a statewide effort to install portable incubators where parents can deposit their babies at locations around the state was nixed this year by a state commission because of concerns about the cost and legal issues around using the boxes.

The “baby boxes” would expand the state’s safe haven law, allowing additional anonymity because parents could deposit the infants without speaking to anyone.  Advocates say this would discourage parents from abandoning unwanted children in unsafe locations like trash cans or the woods, the Fort Wayne News Sentinel noted in an editorial.

“Instead of approving the baby boxes, commission members voted to focus on better educating the public on the state’s Safe Haven law. We hope they are serious about that task. It’s a good law that can save the lives of unwanted babies, but it can’t work if not many people know about it. And maybe even a few more could be saved if parents did not have to risk encountering a person who might try to talk them out of it. That is the promise of baby boxes,” the paper wrote.

The baby boxes, which are heated and padded, were also wired to notify emergency personnel immediately when a baby was left inside it.

But baby boxes have proved controversial, especially in Europe, with a United Nations committee condemning them in 2012 as violating children’s rights to identify and maintain a personal relationship with their parents. Instead, they argued, countries should focus on providing resources about family planning, easy access to contraception and social support, which might prevent parents from resorting to the drastic solution of abandoning their unwanted children.

“Baby boxes do not operate in the best interest of the child or the mother," Maria Herczog, a sociologist and member of the UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child told the Monitor in 2012. “Just leave your baby, these boxes seem to say. I don’t think any community could send this message to any vulnerable person,” she added.

But advocates, who range from an Indiana firefighter (a pro-life activist) to other human rights groups, argue that baby boxes are a last defense for women who feel they have no other option.,

“These women are, in general, victims of a lack of adequate social networks and state public services. In the absence of such services, these boxes are a plausible solution to ensure the child's survival and guarantee women's rights,” Christina Tango, Children’s Rights Assistant for the International Reference Center for the Rights of Children Deprived of their Family, told the Monitor in 2012.

For the baby in New York, the church’s pastor said he was hoping someone would adopt the child or the parents would be identified.

"Let us pray for this child," Mr. Heanue wrote, according to the Associated Press "for his parents and for whomever will receive him into their home."

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.