Office of the Ombudsman / Child and Youth Advocate

Ombudsman and child youth advocate releases recommendations for the protection of unborn children (09/10/09)

NB 1533

Oct. 9, 2009

FREDERICTON (CNB) - The provincial government has received six recommendations from ombudsman and child and youth advocate Bernard Richard in response to the minister of Social Development's request for comments relating to a recent report from the Child Death Review Committee.

The report, issued following the death of a newborn whose parents were known to Social Development, advised the department to determine what actions the minister could or should take to protect unborn children who may be at risk of serious harm or death.

"I am hopeful that these six recommendations will be well received by the minister, and I hope they will be implemented in the very near future, before another tragedy occurs," said Richard.

The Office of the Ombudsman / Child and Youth Advocate recommends the enactment of legislation that would allow superior courts to intervene if an unborn child is thought to be in danger, especially when the parents are known to social services.

"We cannot sit idly by if there are strong reasons to believe that an unborn baby may come to harm once he or she is born," said Richard. "Even if the proposed legislation is rarely called upon, it will be well worth it if even one baby's life is saved because of it."

The recommendations emphasize the need for improved services for at-risk mothers; family planning education; and training for service providers on how to identify and treat pregnancy denial.

The recommendations suggest that support and help be available to women who abandon newborns or who have been in pregnancy denial. The recommendations state, however, that further research is needed about the effectiveness of Safe Haven legislation before such legislation is considered.


EDITOR'S NOTE: Following are the recommendations issued today in the ombudsman's recent report, Protection of vulnerable newborn children: A holistic approach. MEDIA CONTACT: Bernard Richard, Office of the Ombudsman / Child and Youth Advocate, 506-453-2789,

The ombudsman's recommendations with respect to vulnerable newborn babies:

The following six recommendations were issued today from the ombudsman's recent report, Protection of vulnerable newborn children: A holistic approach. The report was forwarded to Social Development Minister Kelly Lamrock on Sept. 30, further to his request for comments.

  1. Provide services to pregnant women and young parents such as a hotline and specialized counsellors. Requiring the most attention are services which target women who may be experiencing pregnancy denial. Project Cuddle in California already operates a hotline program which is available to women in Canada. Developing a similar hotline to serve New Brunswick at-risk mothers may be valuable. Other services would include distribution of free and available contraception, and strengthening support to low-income pregnant women and young parents. Support and help should be in place for the women who abandon newborns or have been in pregnancy denial as these mothers may have mental health or addiction issues.
  2. Educate youth on family planning issues including contraception, the dangers of a lack of prenatal care, baby abandonment as well as training service providers on identifying and treating the denial of a pregnancy. This should be implemented in partnership with the Department of Education.
  3. Research the causes of infant abandonment. Since the issue seems closely tied with the social situation of women, this could be performed in conjunction with the Advisory Council on the Status of Women. Research should also be done on the effectiveness of Safe Haven legislation before such legislation is considered further.
  4. Implement policy which can assist social workers in determining the appropriate steps to take when encountering a woman who may be at risk of harming her unborn child. This policy would require that the pregnant woman be contacted by a counsellor who is trained to assist women in pregnancy denial and be given the number to the hotline. It should also address the involvement of health professionals and hospitals.
  5. Review the terms of reference of the Child Death Review Committee to determine if its objectives are still desired and, if so, provide the committee with the resources or other assistance required to carry out those objectives.
  6. Legislate to restore to the superior courts the necessary jurisdiction to protect unborn children from serious harm or death in appropriate circumstances.