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Health Policy. 2009 Dec;93(2-3):157-64. doi: 10.1016/j.healthpol.2009.06.002. Epub 2009 Aug 12.

Abandoned babies and absent policies.

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Department of Infection and Population Health, Royal Free and University College Medical School, UCL, London, United Kingdom.



Although infant abandonment is a historical problem, we know remarkably little about the conditions or effects of abandonment to guide evidence driven policies. This paper briefly reviews the existing international evidence base with reference to potential mental health considerations before mapping current UK guidelines and procedures, and available incidence data. Limitations arising from these findings are discussed with reference to international practice, and interpreted in terms of future pathways for UK policy.


A systematic approach was utilized to gather available data on policy information and statistics on abandoned babies in the UK.


A review of the limited literature indicates that baby abandonment continues to occur, with potentially wide-ranging mental health ramifications for those involved. However, research into such consequences is lacking, and evidence with which to understand risk factors or motives for abandonment is scarce. International approaches to the issue remain controversial with outcomes unclear. Our systematic search identified that no specific UK policy relating to baby abandonment exists, either nationally or institutionally. This is compounded by a lack of accurate of UK abandonment statistics. Data that does exist is not comprehensive and sources are incompatible, resulting in an ambiguous picture of UK baby abandonment.


Available literature indicates an absence of clear provision, policy and research on baby abandonment. Based on current understanding of maternal and child mental health issues likely to be involved in abandonment, existing UK strategy could be easily adapted to avoid the 'learning from scratch' approach. National policies on recording and handling of baby abandonments are urgently needed, and future efforts should be concentrated on establishing clear data collection frameworks to inform understanding, guide competent practice and enable successfully targeted interventions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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