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Controversy over 'baby safes' where parents can abandon unwanted babies

Shelley Christians / The Times via Gallo Images / Getty Images

Kim Highfield, director of Out of Africa Children's Fund, opens the "baby safe" at the Anybody Family Centre on May 9 in Cape Town, South Africa. An alarm goes off when an unwanted baby is placed in the safe, which then automatically locks.

South Africa's Times newspaper reported today on a controversial new scheme in Cape Town that allows parents to leave unwanted babies anonymously in a "baby safe" mounted on an exterior wall of a community center.

The initiative was launched last week by charity worker Kim Highfield. "Less than 10 seconds after a baby is placed in the metal structure, which is lined with a baby blanket and pillow, an alarm is triggered inside the building", the Times reported.

"Child welfare experts agree that, though Highfield means well, her initiative could increase baby abandonment and create a myriad of legal and social problems."

Nobody has yet made use of the safe, but the newspaper reports that about 101 babies have been deposited in a similar facility in Johannesburg since January 2007.