Brussels' first 'baby box' coming to Evere
Baby boxes – where mothers can leave their unwanted newborns safely – may seem like something straight out of Victorian London. But already in 2012, UK newspaper The Guardian reported almost 200 baby hatches had been installed across Europe, while Belgium’s first baby box came to Antwerp in 2000.
Now, after three years’ legal action, the non-profit association Corvia has been authorised to open a baby box in Evere. ”We are very happy, as every child should have the right to a future,” said the organisation’s Mathilde Pelsers. “We hope to officially start the scheme at the beginning of October.”
Situated at 405 Rue du Tilleul, the box should have been set up on 21 September 2017, but Evere’s former mayor Pierre Muylle abandoned the project the same day. There followed a three-year battle at Belgium’s supreme court (Conseil d’Etat) to overturn this decision.
Evere’s current mayor Ridouane Chahid supports the initiative, and will discuss with Corvia the details of the scheme and its legal framework shortly.
Corvia is clear that the aim of baby boxes is not to encourage people to abandon their children, even though the practice has been criticised by the United Nations, but, “to offer a possibility to leave their child safely”. In the past, babies have been left in dangerous places, it warns. The organisation also provides a freephone number 0800 555 02 that mothers can call for information or help.
The Evere box, open 24 hours a day, has a small green door which, when opened, reveals a warm box with a blanket on which to place the child. The baby box also contains an envelope with information on Corvia as well as a unique jigsaw piece by which the mother can identify the child later if she so wishes.
The green door’s opening triggers an alarm and alerts the baby box caretaker. But he or she will only open the box when the person bringing the baby has shut the door and left. This ensures complete anonymity, Corvia says. A doctor is then contacted to give essential first care to the baby.