In France, 500 to 700 children are born each year to mothers who wish to remain anonymous and place their babies with child protective services before putting them for adoption. Unless there are complications, the newborns spend an average of five to ten days in the maternity ward, giving child protective services time to plan their future.
A 10-page baby album created by the kangaroo unit at Antoine Béclère Hospital in Clamart, France, is designed to give these children a record of their first days of life. The album includes photos of baths, bottle feedings and other highlights of their stay in the maternity ward, as well as personal accounts by midwives, pediatric nurses, psychologists and other staff in the form of text and photos.
Pauline Minjollet, clinical psychologist at Antoine-Béclére, coordinated the project. According to Minjollet, “All the maternity wards create a baby album for children born to anonymous mothers, but often with whatever’s at hand, so the album’s a bit flimsy and not always very attractive. That’s understandable since the annual number of anonymous births in each maternity ward tends to be very low – an average of five at Antoine-Béclére – but it’s still a shame. We created a colorful album that can be personalized and illustrated so it’s fun to look at, and because it comes in hardback, it’s very durable. That’s important since it’s viewed frequently in hospital nurseries and by the adoptive family; otherwise, it could fall apart. We also tried to come up with a flexible and supportive concept that conveys just the right tone – compassionate and neither too distant and cold nor too personal and emotional, which is what often happens when too much room is left for comments. The album must be able to show the baby’s emotional, behavioral and developmental growth.”
It’s given to the child protective services or adoption agency caseworker, who visits the newborn in the maternity ward, then follows its progress in the nursery. A copy is kept in the baby’s medical records and made available upon request when s/he reaches adulthood. The Mustela Foundation will be happy to provide the album, which is already available at Antoine-Béclère, to any maternity ward upon request.