#minorsextrafficking | Safe surrender site to give ‘hope’ for unwanted children – The Carillon

News of an infant found dead in a Winnipeg garbage bin shook the province in early June, prompting a conversation about the lack of options to safely surrender a child in Manitoba.

But soon, mothers and parents who are in dire straits and feel they cannot care for a child will have an option to surrender an infant in a safe, secure way located in Landmark.

An Alberta-based organization plans to make Manitoba the second location for a Hope’s Cradle safe surrender site, due to be installed at the Landmark Fire Hall.


Sheila and Trevor Braun, Tache Fire Chief Allan Rau and Susan Penner, director of Life Culture Canada, are four of the individuals responsible for bringing Canada’s second infant safe surrender site to Landmark Fire Hall, to be installed by January.

After hearing of the infant’s – later named baby Moar – discovery, Landmark residents Sheila and Trevor Braun looked to bring an alternative option for those who choose to surrender a child to the province.

Braun, a member of the Tache Fire Department, approached Fire Chief Allan Rau in June to bring a safe surrender site to the community. They worked with pro-life organization Life Culture Canada director and Steinbach city councillor Susan Penner, who initially advocated for bringing the surrender site to Manitoba, to get the necessary support for the project.

“It was just heart wrenching to think that someone would be of that desperation to be able to do that,” Sheila said of the infant’s discovery in a garbage bin.

“I always envision that happening in different countries, but when it happens so close to home, it hits home.”

Rau supported the idea and brought it to RM of Tache council who recently approved the site’s construction.

Penner, too, said the news of baby Moar moved her.

“As a mom, it seems unimaginable…this is a really neat idea for a woman in difficult circumstances,” she said.

The surrender site is a small, temperature-controlled box carved out of the exterior of a building. Equipped with a silent alarm, once the hatch is opened the one surrendering the child has two minutes to vacate the area before first responders are on the scene to respect their anonymity. The bassinet inside the surrender site has a package of documents for the individual which informs them of parental rights, a postage-paid form to mail in the infant’s medical history and a list of resources.

Gems for Gems, the women’s advocacy group behind the concept, looks to install safe surrender sites across the country. The first – and only – site was installed in Strathmore, Alberta last year.

Jordan Guildford, CEO and founder of Gems for Gems, said she’s in discussion with six provinces to bring a Hope’s Cradle there.

Guildford initially approached a Manitoba fire chief to bring a site to the province to which the idea was declined, the chief citing no need for it. Two months later baby Moar was discovered in Winnipeg’s North End.

“(Safe surrender sites) went out of style for a little bit, but there’s absolutely no disputing the need for it,” she said. “What we’re looking at is providing a last resort for women in need.”

Safe surrender sites and safe-haven laws have been criticized in the past. While baby hatches have existed for centuries, typically built into convents and hospitals, advocates say surrender sites encourage child abandonment and infants have the right to know their birth parents.

Manitoba has a voluntary surrender law which gives parents the ability to temporarily place a child in agency care or permanently surrender guardianship.

Guildford argued without a child, their rights cannot be fought for.

“We are very much focused on just the very bare minimum of keeping that little heart beating and protecting that life,” she said.

“What we’re trying to protect is their right to a heartbeat. Without a heartbeat every single other right doesn’t exist because they don’t exist.”

Reasons to abandon a child vary from unwanted children conceived through sex trafficking or sexual assault to lack of support, Guildford said.

Penner said the installation could prevent fewer cases like baby Moar.

“Instead of the baby ending up in a dumpster and dying, I know abandonment isn’t ideal, but this is certainly preferable to that option,” she said.

“It can also give these moms peace of mind knowing that the baby is alive, even if they can’t be the one to raise it or care for it.”

For the Brauns, who parent eight children, the site means hope.

“The greatest desire of a parent is for the welfare of their children. When you see your kids growing, you see the life they bring to the world and you just want to do anything you can within your power to give that to them,” Trevor said.

“We’re offering them a second chance at life.”

Fundraising for the Hope’s Cradle site will go through November. If the $20,000 needed for the installation is acquired Penner said the site will be installed by the end of January.

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