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Calgary now has a safe surrender site for babies

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Calgary now has a safe surrender site for babies, not far from the site where a newborn was found dead in a Bowness dumpster seven years ago.

"Like many Calgarians we were impacted by the death of the infant," said Lisa Garrisen, director of programs with Children's Cottage Society (CCS).

"We knew we wanted to do something that would provide an alternative for parents if they were in desperate situations."

CCS opened a new Child and Family Centre in Montgomery, located at 1804 Home Road N.W., earlier this month, and on Monday opened the Hope’s Cradle near the building’s entrance.

The cradle is an anonymous drop-off site where an infant can be left in a heated, secured bed, signalling a silent alarm which informs staff.

When leaving a baby, the parent can take an information package about available health and social services.

"If a parent is in a circumstance where they are absolutely certain that they are unable to care for an infant, they know there's a way to safely get them to people who will receive them and care for them and connect them to the resources they need to grow up healthy and happy," said Garrisen.

"And then it gives both the parent and the infant the opportunity to look at their future and figure out what that could be."

The cradle adds to the existing resources meant to help parents surrender children safely and access resources themselves.

"We want to make this a really well known alternative."

Hope's Cradle was developed because of the newborn girl placed in a Bowness dumpster on Christmas Eve 2017.

The 19 year-old mother responsible was not given jail time.

The Calgary woman said her baby was born alive but stopped breathing soon after.

When she couldn’t revive her newborn she wrapped the infant in bags and left her in a dumpster at a Bowness trash and recycling drop-off site.

In 2022, Nina Albright received a sentence of 18 months probation after pleading guilty to interfering with a dead body.

A judge ruled that jail time would be excessive in this case.

Homicide detective Dave Sweet was part of the investigation team when the baby’s body was found.

"Children's Cottage it's almost situated in the shadow of what happened back in 2017," said the now retired Calgary Police Service officer.

"I think the story of Baby Eve, as she was coined, shows that you're not too small to make a difference, and one of those things in her legacy is this cradle program."

Sweet volunteers with a group called Gems for Gems, which opened a Hope's Cradle drop-off at Strathmore's fire station in 2021 before working with Children’s Cottage to create its cradle.

"We're just trying to create another option, and a safe option for these babies," said Jordan Guildford, founder of Gems for Gems.

In a separate program, Covenant Health developed two safe surrender sites in Edmonton, near the emergency departments of the Grey Nuns Community Hospital and Misericordia Community Hospital

Since their inception in 2013, Edmonton's Angel Cradles have been used twice.

"Even if its one life, this is all worth it," said Garrisen.

"It is the difference between a life of maybe danger and harm and a life that's full of possibility."

The other goal is to create more awareness and compassion for parents who might make the decision to use a cradle.

"We want the community to learn about understanding and kindness and thinking about how selfless this parent was," said Garrisen.

"It's very easy to villainize women who will make this choice, but we want people to understand that these women are being very brave," said Guildford.

Gems for Gems has helped open Hope’s Cradles in four Canadian cities, and hopes to have one in every major city and some towns across the country.

"Our goals are lofty, because the need is very high," said Guildford.

"In Alberta we expect a few more popping up this year."

She said the cost of creating one is about $25,000.

Garrisen said partnering with Gems for Gems made the process easy and hopes others will consider adding them as well.

"We have one safe surrender site in Calgary and that’s amazing, but we need more," said Garrisen.

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