A controversial "baby hatch" in the southern city of Guangzhou that opened in January has closed its doors already, overwhelmed by the number of abandoned infants that have been left at the facility, according to a CNN report.
Baby hatches, or "baby safety islands," as they are known in Chinese, started opening in 2011 and feature temperature-controlled rooms with cradles where parents can anonymously leave a child and sound an alarm. Ten minutes later, medical staff retrieve the child. The hatches allow parents to leave babies that are unwanted — or that the parents are unable to care for. Abandoning infants is not legal in China, according to the report, but the practice is common in poor areas.
The Gangzhou operation has received 262 children since opening earlier this year, an average of about five babies a day, and all of them have disabilities or illnesses like Down's syndrome or cerebral palsy, according to Chinese news service Xinhua. The hatches are meant to protect children that might otherwise die abandoned on the streets.
The center's director, Xu Jiu, told Xinhua that many of the parents can't cope with the financial hardship of treating genetic and incurable diseases. "Parents bring their ill babies to big cities in the hope of having them cured. But many just end up abandoning them," he said.
The facilities are meant to protect children by providing life-saving care, but critics say they could encourage parents to abandon their children, which remains a problem partly because of the one-child policy that created demand for male children over female. However, hatches in Beijing say that they receive roughly equal numbers of boy and girl babies, according to voanews.com.