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Abandoned babies in the UK - a review utilizing media reports

Sherr, L; Mueller, J; Fox, Z; (2009) Abandoned babies in the UK - a review utilizing media reports. CHILD CARE HLTH DEV , 35 (3) 419 - 430. 10.1111/j.1365-2214.2009.00952.x.

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Abstract

In the absence of national policy or comprehensive data, the phenomenon of abandoned babies is poorly understood in the UK. This study aims to use media reports as a resource to collate existing information on abandoned babies and to draw conclusions to inform future response.An exhaustive media search using electronic searches and media monitoring was undertaken to glean systematic information on all abandoned babies in the UK from 1998-2005. These were matched onto two databases - the UK Crime Statistics and the UK Abandoned Children Register in an attempt to align information on infant abandonment. Media reports were coded to list gender, survival, age, parental finding and circumstantial data.Our figures suggest an average of 16 babies abandoned yearly, while official sources give conflicting indications because of incomplete data gathering and child over-inclusion. Through systematic coding of media reports, 124 babies were identified over a 7-year period. Of these, 96 (77.4%) were newborns (< 1 week old) and 28 (22.6%) were older babies (> 1 week old). Adjusted logistic regression analysis found the strongest predictors of survival were age at abandonment and 'findability'. Newborn babies were less likely to survive than older babies (33.7% newborns died vs. 0% older babies, P < 0.0001). Babies left in a non-findable location (34%) had a 5.19 (2.06, 13.11) higher odds of death compared with those to be found. Most babies (74%) were abandoned outdoors and only 9.7% were left with a memento. Few mothers, almost exclusively those of older babies, were found (37.1%). Of those found, 92% were located within 3 days of abandoning their baby. Media interest is transient - 44.8% cases have a single report - and are typified by negative headlines (81.5%).This database currently represents the most accurate and comprehensive picture of the newborn abandonment phenomenon in the UK, a phenomenon that is rare but with high media and social interest. If the future well-being of mother and baby are to be catered for, clearer evidence-based policy and provision is vital.

Type: Article
Title: Abandoned babies in the UK - a review utilizing media reports
DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2214.2009.00952.x
Keywords: abandoned baby, abandonment, foundling, infant, mother, POSTNATAL DEPRESSION, INFANT ABANDONMENT, ADOPTION RESEARCH, CHILDREN, GENDER, ADJUSTMENT, PREVENTION, PREGNANCY, NEWBORNS, BEHOLDER
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Pop Health Sciences > Institute for Global Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Pop Health Sciences > Institute for Global Health > Infection and Population Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > VP Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > VP Health > Clinical Research Support Centre
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > VP Health > Clinical Research Support Centre > Joint Research Office
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/123845
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