Canada’s second infant safe surrender site coming to rural Manitoba fire hall
A fire hall in a rural Manitoba community is set to become home to the country’s second safe surrender site for infants.
Called Hope’s Cradle, the site is a temperature-controlled bassinet where a parent or caregiver can surrender an infant.
The first in Canada was installed at a fire hall in Strathmore, Alta. in December 2021. The second is being installed at the Landmark Fire Hall in the Rural Municipality of Taché.
“Everybody within the fire department, within the RM administration have all embraced it, and we're just happy to be able to provide that type of service if and when required,” RM of Taché Fire Chief Allan Rau told CTV News Winnipeg.
Hope’s Cradle is an initiative by Gems for Gems, a Calgary non-profit aimed at ending the cycle of domestic violence by empowering survivors.
(Source: Taché Fire/Facebook)
How it works - the cradle is opened by a small, exterior door at the fire hall, which immediately sets off a silent alarm and alerts first responders, who will be dispatched immediately. A built-in camera allows them to monitor the baby until help arrives.
The parent or caregiver receives an envelope with documentation informing them of their rights, detailing how the process works, a list of resources as well as a form to send in the baby’s medical history. There is also a guided letter where they can write a message to their baby and then send it anonymously to the fire hall afterward, if they choose.
They then have two to three minutes to place the baby inside the cradle and leave before help arrives. Once the door is closed, it cannot be reopened. The mother will have 30 days to reclaim their child.
There are no cameras, and the process is meant to be anonymous.
“That is really the big difference maker and what we really believe will be the reason why women will choose Hope’s Cradle as opposed to what has been happening, which is ditches and dumpsters, which is obviously creating an unsafe environment for the baby,” explained Jordan Guildford, founder and CEO of Gems for Gems.
She notes they plan to install Hope’s Cradles in many more cities and towns across Canada. She said similar initiatives in the States have saved 1,600 lives.
“We need to make sure that this becomes widely accepted and accessible. Without that, I think we’re going to fall short of our goal.”
TRAGIC DISCOVERY INSPIRES SAFE SURRENDER SITE
Rau told CTV News the catalyst for the project came after the body of a newborn girl was found in a garbage bin in an alley in Winnipeg’s North End in June of 2022.
Jeanene Rosa Moar, 31, was charged with manslaughter and concealing the body of a child. Those charges were stayed in October.
READ MORE: Charges stayed in death of Winnipeg infant found in garbage bin
Life Culture executive director Susan Penner was deeply affected by case. The Steinbach-based organization advocates for the pro-life movement and beginning of life to end of life protection.
Memorial for Baby Moar from Friday June 10, 2022. (Source: Josh Crabb/CTV News)
Penner heard about the first Hope’s Cradle in Alberta, and felt it was in step with her organization’s work.
“I thought this would probably be a great resource to have in the province, in our area, in case other women are in that situation,” Penner said.
The organization approached Rau to see if a Hope’s Cradle could be installed in their municipality.
“I thought immediately that it was a great idea, and that I would pursue it with the administration and council to see if they would be willing to allow that to happen,” Rau said.
The safe surrender site came with a price tag of $20,000.
Life Culture started fundraising in November. Penner said it didn’t take long to reach their goal.
“I've done fundraising for years, and you always know when something resonates, when the money comes in quickly,” she said.
“It's a really tangible way to support women who are in these really desperate circumstances. It really brings up compassion in people.”
Life Culture executive director Susan Penner is pictured with Zach Ronaldson and Allan Ward, who installed a Hope's Cradle at the Landmark Fire Hall.
The initiative was eventually approved by the municipal council, and installation began by Gems for Gems Monday morning, and was finished two days later.
Rau said the cradle is now in a two-week trial phase and from there, they will decide when to put it into operation.
“We're very proud that we have that box, and as I previously stated, we hope it never gets used,” Rau said.
- With files from CTV's Danton Unger
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