First baby placed in Prague's "baby box"

Sonia, photo: MFDnes, 21.2.06

Last June the first "baby box" was opened in the Czech Republic - a place where mothers can give up their unwanted babies anonymously for adoption. Last Friday, the baby box was used for the first time. But along with the child, the mother also left the baby's birth certificate - unwittingly making the adoption process more complicated.

Little Sona is a healthy baby girl, one of twins born four weeks ago. In a letter her mother left with her in the baby box at a private mother and baby clinic in Prague she expressed a wish that little Sona be put up for adoption as soon as possible; she said she couldn't afford to bring up two children as a single mother. But by leaving Sona's birth certificate with the baby, and so in fact declaring her parental rights, she may have slowed down the process. Ludvik Hess from the Statim foundation for abandoned children which runs the baby box describes Sona's case.

"We never dreamed that we'd receive a child with an identity. But the situation is possible to solve. It is necessary that the mother give written consent with adoption, but the earliest date for that is six weeks after birth. Meanwhile the mother has got in touch with us and we agreed that the baby will be placed in a temporary family-type home in the meantime."

Michaela Marksova-Tominova from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs explains the legal technicalities of the adoption process.

"It's up to the court to decide. But first because little Sona is only four weeks old, we have to wait until six weeks after the birth - that's a kind of deadline when the mother can change her decision. But because she is not an anonymous baby - because of this birth certificate - the court would probably have to wait for another two months in case the mother of the father, who is unknown, do want to take care of her.

"But it doesn't mean the baby has to spend the time in an institution because it is legally possible that the new family is found already. But those people who will be chosen in the official way and with whom little Sona will be placed are running a risk because if the parents come back within those two months they would have to give Sona back."

Meanwhile many people who have learned about little Sona from the media are offering financial help to the mother to prevent the separation of the twins. Ludvik Hess of Statim says he is afraid this might become a dangerous precedent: some mothers could possibly abuse this generosity to make some money.

In the last five years, eleven unwanted newborn children have been killed by their parents in the Czech Republic. And it is cases like those, Ludvik Hess says, that the baby boxes - one in Prague and another one in Brno - are intended to prevent.