Seems to me this is more likened to an, albiet disgusting, "finders fee" and perhaps an ill advised way to keep babies from being left in spots they may be more vulnerable?I've heard this argument before, that the finder's fee incentivizes parents so that children won't be abandoned in dangerous places. I see similarities in this argument to safe haven laws: we can protect children by incentivizing safe circumstances for their abandonment.
There's just one problem with that -- people who abandon children are usually beyond the reach of the reason needed to be incentivized. Or at least that's the case in the U.S., according the the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute's report on the unintended consequences of safe haven laws:
It is clear that a lack of anonymity and a fear of prosecution (the two issues these laws focus upon) do not motivate women to leave their infants in dangerous circumstances – denial and desperation do. [R]esearch shows that the affected population – especially teens experiencing unplanned pregnancy – are so distraught or in denial that they act in panic rather than with the thoughtfulness required to take a newborn to a designated site.Does that sound like a mother who is reachable by rational thought, able to make plans to "safe haven" the child? The reality is that rational women don't need safe havens, abandoning mothers are not rational and will, therefore, not use safe havens. The incentive behind safe havens -- the promise of confidentiality and lack of prosecution for abandonment -- can't work on abandoning mothers in the grips of emotional, psychological and practical difficulties.
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One of the few abandoning mothers interviewed in the press explained, “When I delivered I was scared, I was afraid, I was panicked, I was frantic – I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was not in a rational state of mind to say, `Oh, I’m going to take the baby to the hospital.’ Additionally, these women experience minimal or no physical pregnancy changes, depersonalization, dissociative hallucinations, and intermittent amnesia. Some women who commit neonaticide “later described having experienced a dissociative episode during childbirth and were “horrified to later discover what had become of their infants."
But maybe it is different in China, in other cultures. Maybe abandonment is seen through more rational eyes (which kind of smacks of birth mother as exotic "Other," doesn't it?). Well, consider this article about new "baby hatches" in Malaysia. After extoling the virtues of the baby hatches, and discussing the plans for creating more baby hatches in Malaysia, the president of the orphan care organization behind the baby hatches says:
[M]ost of the babies and children left at its premises were not placed in the hatch, but handed over with the proper documents by their biological mothers. Only two babies were placed inside the baby hatch.Interesting, women in Malaysia are not being incentivized by safe havens/baby hatches, either. They are walking in to place their children, without needing a secret baby hatch. Yes, there are still abandonments in Malaysia, just like there are still abandonments in the U.S. despite safe haven laws. Sounds like Malaysia faces the same issue we do -- abandoning mothers can't be incentivized to "safe abandonments (an oxymoron if I've ever heard one!)" by baby hatches/safe havens.
"Unwed mothers have been knocking on our doors to give up their babies instead of simply leaving them in the hatch and walking away."
The article admits that the real solution has been an education program that lets prospective birth mothers know where to go to place a child for adoption, not a program that lets them know there's a safe, secret baby hatch as an alternative to abandonment: "The awareness programmes are important. It is because of increased awareness that unwed mothers now know where to go to if they want to put up their children for adoption."
So do finder's fees, safe havens, baby hatches incentivize safe abandonments? The research, as well as anecdotal evidence, suggests not as to safe havens and baby hatches at least.
Does money work any better? There's certainly no evidence to show that it does. The argument that finder's fees do incentivize "safe abandonment" have to rest on the power of money to influence behavior in this context. And then doesn't that argument also concede the coercive power of that money in the relinquishment decision? Where is our free and voluntary surrender of a child then?
Which concedes that these finder's fees/incentive programs in China are not benign child protection measures, but actually coercive programs that violate the Hague Convention. That's what I argued in this previous post: Cash, Consent and the Hague Convention.