What Are Boarder Babies?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 25 January 2020
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When a baby is abandoned at a hospital, he is often referred to as a boarder baby. Usually, parents abandon their babies because they believe they cannot care for them or because they have no interest in raising children. Often, these infants are not healthy and are in need of special care. For example, a boarder baby may be born with HIV or be addicted to drugs because of his mother's drug use during pregnancy; some also may be born early or with handicapping conditions. In some cases, however, the babies are healthy but are simply left behind.

The term boarder baby is used in reference to an infant who has been abandoned in a hospital. Often, this situation occurs when the baby's mother cannot care for the child and leaves the hospital without him following childbirth. Sadly, many of the babies who are abandoned in this way are actually more in need of capable caregivers than other babies. This is because many of them have health conditions that make them much more vulnerable. Still, there are also some boarder babies who are abandoned despite the fact that they are completely healthy.


The range of issues a boarder baby may have is wide and varied. Some boarder babies are born with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which is the virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS); others are born addicted to drugs because their mothers used drugs during pregnancy. Many are born with health issues caused by their mothers' heavy consumption of alcohol during pregnancy. Often, these babies are premature and born at very low birth weights. Some boarder babies are born with minor or major birth defects, conditions caused by chromosome abnormalities, or they are born blind or deaf.

It may seem logical that it would be easier to adopt boarder babies than infants who have not been abandoned at a hospital. In many cases, this may be true. It is important to understand, however, that a person who wants to adopt a boarder baby will usually have to become a foster parent to him first and then eventually adopt him. This can be emotionally troubling for some hopeful adoptive parents, as there is a chance that the parents of the child, or his other relatives, will seek reunification. Often, the authorities involved extend the parents the chance to reunify with their boarder babies despite the fact that they initially abandoned them.


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Post 3

@irontoenail - Rather than focus on how terrible that kind of situation is, I prefer to focus on the wonderful people who do foster and adopt boarder babies and help them to grow in a loving family.

The amount of time and patience these people have is amazing. Many boarder babies do end up growing to be healthy, well adjusted adults because they were given love and care in spite of their difficult birth.

Post 2

@croydon - Sadly I think that that is the reason for the existence of many boarder babies. Maybe the mother didn't know she was pregnant until it was already "too late" or maybe she simply didn't have the strength to give up substance abuse for her baby.

I can imagine the fear and self loathing someone would feel, knowing their child is possibly damaged because of their actions, and how that could lead them to thinking that the baby would be better off without them.

In some cases they might even be right. But there are so many help systems available, I wish that those women would take advantage of them before it gets to that point.

Because you're right. The idea of a baby crying from withdrawal symptoms is heartbreaking. And they might be facing more problems than simple addiction.

Post 1

There's nothing more awful than the idea of a baby who has become addicted to drugs from being in his mother's womb when she was pregnant.

I had a relative who had a troubled adolescence and did quite a lot of drugs and slept around a lot as well. She eventually ended up pregnant. As soon as she found this out, she quit everything including alcohol and cigarettes and did the right thing for her baby.

She's still not what I would consider the best example of motherhood even now, but I know how difficult it is to give up something when you are addicted to it and I will always respect her for making the decision to quit and sticking to it for the sake of her child.

He's been a beautiful, healthy kid so far and he could easily have had many problems.

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