An angel came calling to St. Paul’s Hospital

The Angel’s Cradle at Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Hospital is for mothers who cannot take care of their newborns.  Photograph by Arlen Redekop, The Province

The Angel’s Cradle at Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Hospital is for mothers who cannot take care of their newborns.
Photograph by Arlen Redekop, The Province

Adapted from The Province

Level 3

In May 2010, two nurses at St. Paul’s Hospital heard
an alarm ring in their emergency department.
The nurses had heard false alarms before.
Sometimes curious people outside had opened
the small door to see what was inside.
But in July 2010, someone opened that door,
and put a baby boy inside the little cradle.
Kirsten Fuller and another nurse
found a newborn, healthy baby boy.
This cradle is called the Angel’s Cradle.
It is a safe place for a baby
that someone wishes to give up.
There is a door that can open from the outside.
Inside there is a baby’s bed with two teddy bears.
Thirty seconds after the door closes,
an alarm rings so staff can come and care for
any infant that was left there.
No one will know who left the baby.
No one will try to find that person.

Kirsten Fuller was one of two nurses who found the Angel’s Cradle baby at St. Paul’s Hospital in 2010.  Photograph by Jennelle Schneider, The Province

Kirsten Fuller was one of two nurses who found the Angel’s Cradle baby at St. Paul’s Hospital in 2010.
Photograph by Jennelle Schneider, The Province

Angel’s Cradle program
The Angel’s Cradle program started after reports
in Vancouver of a mother abandoning a dead newborn.
There were other stories in the province of babies
left at a bus stop, in a public washroom or in a garbage bin.
In the last 15 years, there have been
seven abandoned-baby deaths in the Lower Mainland.
Babies were often left, also, at the hospital entrance or
at bus stops nearby.

 Dr. Geoffrey Cundiff, Vancouver Coastal Health’s head of obstetrics and gynecology, launched the Angel’s Cradle in 2010.  Photograph by Jennelle Schneider, The Province


Dr. Geoffrey Cundiff, Vancouver Coastal Health’s head of obstetrics and gynecology, launched the Angel’s Cradle in 2010.
Photograph by Jennelle Schneider, The Province

A safe place for a baby
Dr. Geoffrey Cundiff was upset.
He thought that there must be a way
to help women who are too anxious
to give up a child through legal adoption.
Nurse Kirsten Fuller said, “For whatever reason,
they couldn’t look after this child. This was
their safe place to drop him off.
But clearly, he was loved.”
The mother left bottles, diapers and notes
about the baby’s birth date and background.
If a mother changes her mind after using the Angel’s Cradle,
she can contact the ministry for support.

Laws about abandonment
Before the Angel’s Cradle program, one baby a month
was being handed over to St. Paul’s staff.
In Canada, it is unlawful to abandon a child
if the child is left where it can be injured, become sick or die.
If someone wishes to have a baby adopted,
there are pages of questions to answer.
Some parents just give up and take the baby home.
Sometimes these children come into care a few years later.
Canada has no laws that allow parents
to give up a newborn anonymously.
Today in France, women can give birth without leaving their names.
A program like the Angel’s Cradle helps.
A social worker said, “No names, no blame, and no shame.”

Foundling wheels
Saving abandoned infants is not new.
In the 12th-century, an infant was placed in a barrel
or “foundling wheel” in the side of a convent or hospital.
When the barrel was turned, the baby moved into the building.
Then the mother could ring a bell.
“Baby hatches” was another name for foundling wheels.
These hatches were used until the 19th century in Rome.
During this time, there were 250 baby hatches in France.

Modern baby hatches
Germany opened a baby hatch in 2000
because many abandoned babies were left
around the city and died.
India and Pakistan also have modern baby hatches.
These hatches mostly save female babies.
Families do not want the high cost of a daughter’s marriage.

Critics of the program
Not everyone is happy about the Angel’s Cradle program.
They say the program makes it too easy to give up a baby.
A St. Paul’s Hospital staff member said,
“We are simply providing a safe place for women
to give up their infants instead of
leaving them in places where they are at risk.”

Funding for the Angel’s Cradle
Money came from the St. Paul’s gift shop
for construction of the cradle.
These funds also helped with Angel’s Cradle information brochures.
The Catholic Church gave a grant for the program.
The mission of St. Paul’s Hospital is compassionate care.
This is why Dr. Cundiff felt the program was a good match.

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Adapted from bullyingcanada.ca; thebullyproject.com;
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Photo: Roots of Empathy Program
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Information adapted from Roots of Empathy Program
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