Hope's Cradle, the life saving program meant to allow mothers to anonymously drop babies off at the fire station, was started in Strathmore last year by the non-profit organization Gems for Gems. This program works by having a safe space at the fire station where a mother can leave a baby behind in a warm, secure box, which would then trigger an alarm for a firefighter to retrieve the baby within minutes to ensure the infant's safety. Hope's Cradle is meant to address the problem of mothers abandoning babies in dumpsters and other locations and instead offers a safe space for mothers who have no other options.
Gems for Gems president Jordan Guildford believes in the importance of providing this service to as many communities as possible, and just one year after opening their first location in Strathmore they are expanding to Landmark, a town 15 minutes away from Steinbach, Manitoba.
"I think that Steinbach is fantastic. I think it's very well positioned as far as being near for people who would definitely utilize it. Steinbach decided to join us and to be part of the pioneer group with Hope's Cradle and I am unbelievably grateful for them stepping up and doing that," she said.
Guildford is excited to see the program expand, but says it's been more difficult than expected. This isn't because of a lack of support; rather, the potential legal issues surrounding this service has made finding a willing fire station challenging.
"In Calgary, this one firefighter told me that if someone was on fire a foot outside of their jurisdiction, they would of course help them, but they would know that if anything went wrong, they could be sued. There's no protection for the firefighters outside of their jurisdiction, so they've been terrified of something going wrong."
This fear of liability is mainly around the concern of what Guildford calls "the perfect storm," a scenario where the fire department has so many urgent things to respond to at once that there may not be a firefighter available to immediately get the baby from the Hope's Cradle box, should one be dropped off during that time. However, Guildford says a baby being left in the drop-off spot for more than a couple of minutes isn't a huge concern, but the liability issues remain.
"The bottom line is that it's a safe temperature-controlled cradle, and it's locked. It's only accessible to first responders via the inside and essentially babies are left in their crib for an hour every single day."
The Strathmore Fire Department worked extensively with lawyers to make sure they could provide this service, using things like the Good Samaritan Act and other safety nets so that the firefighters can act when needed to potentially save lives. Guildford understands the need for these legal protections and is hoping that other stations like Strathmore and Landmark are brave enough to step up and take on the responsibility of helping save babies' lives.
"Acting will always be better than not acting and doing everything we can to be able to save a baby's life... I think that that has to be put before everything. Not only ethically should it be ok, but the legal opinion is that they should be completely safe and because of that Strathmore moved forward with it and they are very confident and they feel great."
"I think that's really important to be able to get out to other stations because I understand the concern, but we can get past the concern and there's other ways too that we can buffer them to make it even less of a concern, like for instance having an on-call first responder process in their community, and nurses, doctors, there's ways to be able to get around this, and I'm certainly happy to help them get around it and help brainstorm. But we need people to be stepping up because we need this, this option needs to be in every community because we have no idea where those women and girls are who are in need and we need to be there for them."
Construction in Landmark is expected to begin on January 18, 2023, and following that there would be a two-week testing period to make sure everything works perfectly prior to their opening. Guildford hopes Landmark is just one of many expansions on the way, and with more rural communities building new fire stations, it's possible that these stations could come with a Hope's Cradle already built into it.
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