China’s Baby Hatches- Providing for China’s Unwanted?

22 Feb

Baby abandonment is something which is heavily prevalent in China, despite the fact that it is illegal within the country (BBC, 2014). Since 2011 over 25 baby hatches have been set up by the Chinese government in 10 different provinces across the country, with more now being built within a further 18 provinces (AFP, 2014). The idea is that they will provide somewhere safe for babies to be left who would otherwise be abandoned in locations where they may be harmed. The ‘havens’ normally have an incubator, a delayed alarm system, air conditioning and a baby bed; with babies being ‘collected’ by officials approximately 5-10 minutes after they have been left there(Zhou, 2014).


Those babies abandoned tend to be those with disabilities such as cerebral palsy or down syndrome, mainly due to the extensive medical fees that they bring with them (AFP, 2014), with many of the babies being left with notes and cash from the parents saying that they had no choice as they would not be able to afford the expensive medical treatments that they would need to have a good quality of life or in some cases even to survive (Zhou, 2014). The key aim is not to change the level of abandonment of babies but instead to change the results after they are abandoned, with the hatches focusing on rescuing the babies after the law has already been broken (AFP, 2014).


 Babies are commonly found abandoned throughout China, with them often being discovered in dumpsters or similar locations. However critics have suggested that the creation of these hatches has encouraged parents to abandon their babies, with nearly 80 babies being left at just one of the hatches in Guangzhou over the Chinese New Year Weekend alone (Zhou, 2014).  Even if these babies are being abandoned within safer locations, surely the fact that they are still being abandoned in the first place is something which needs to be more urgently addressed. With China suffering from a lack of a unified welfare system, it seems that this is the issue that needs to be looked into in order to try and reduce the number of children who are being abandoned in the first place meaning that these controversial hatches would not need to be built in the first place (Hui and Blanchard, 2014).




AFP, 2014, China to build safe havens for abandoned babies, The China Post, Available at: [Accessed 19/02/14]

BBC, 2014, China Expands Baby Hatch Scheme, BBC News, Available at: [Accessed 21/02/2014]

Hui, L. and Blanchard, B. 2014, China’s Unwanted, once girls now mostly sick, disabled, Reuter, Available at: [Accessed 21/02/2014]

Zhou, L. 2014, Critics say baby hatches ‘encourage child abandonment’ as nearly 80 babies left at Guangzhou shelter over CNY, South China Morning Post,  Available at:, [Accessed 19/02/14]


One Response to “China’s Baby Hatches- Providing for China’s Unwanted?”

  1. squouse March 4, 2014 at 4:58 pm #

    It may not just be a problem of not having a unified welfare system. As you say, it is mainly children with disabilities who are left abandoned but healthy babies do sometimes find themselves on the street, particularly before the one-child policy was reformed. The tradition for boys to carry on the family name whilst girls are seen as a financial burden has resulted in many females being abandoned or selectively aborted. This is a deeper, cultural issue which has been going on for centuries (according to anthropologist William Skinner from the University of California, Davis, infanticide was fairly common in China before the 1990s).

    China has had to export at least 100,000 babies in the past 20 years, and has had to rely on foreign charities to support disabled children particularly in rural provinces, but now that the Chinese government is worrying about its image to the rest of the world, it wants to demonstrate that it can take care of its own problems. This rather arrogant attitude means it is becoming more and more difficult for prospective foster families and charities to rescue these abandoned children, and has put further strain on benevolent organisations. On the other hand, there have been cases in rural areas of officials in fact stealing babies from families who breached the one-child policy, since babies can fetch around $3,000 per head in foreign adoptions. Therefore it is difficult to say whether China’s foreign adoption “market” is a blessing or a detriment to the abandoned children.

    What is more, many parents who abandon their children wrongly believe that their child will have a better life, but often the orphanages are overcrowded and have difficulties meeting the children’s basic needs. What China should focus on now is changing the fundamental attitudes to what as a “desirable” gender particularly in rural areas, as well as overhauling the quality of foster homes and making the adoptive process more stringent.

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