Child abandonment is one of the most painful dramas imaginable; regardless of the century a story takes place. Leaving a baby on the doorstep is a centuries old social problem that puts an infant’s life at risk and in most countries is a punishable offense. The plight of outcast newborns during the Middle Ages was a social and moral issue; many of the same questions and answers remain equally relevant today. The problem of unwanted newborns has been documented in Italy since Roman times when babies abandoned next to a column in a forum were either taken home by strangers to serve as slaves or left to die. Pope Innocent III was shocked by the large number of dead babies floating in the Tiber River, the main watercourse of the city of Rome. In response to this societal catastrophe, he institutionalized the “foundling wheel” in the 12th century as a solution for dealing with the large number of foundlings—infants abandoned by their parents and left to die or be discovered and cared for by others.
Foundling wheels were set in the exterior walls of medieval churches, convents, and hospitals to allow an abandoned baby to be left anonymously and safely without fear of punishment. Infants were carefully placed in a revolving crib through a circular opening and rotated into the building. The practice of using foundling wheels to dispose of unwanted children gained in popularity and became a common practice in medieval Europe. In Italy, foundlings were given names such as Esposito (exposed), Proietti (throw away), and Innocenti (innocent) and individuals with these names can often trace their family pedigree to a foundling past.
The problem of what to do with abandoned children raises as many concerns today as it did in the past and the foundling wheels of today function much the same as those in medieval times. Multilingual posters in modern Rome read—“Don’t abandon your baby! Leave it with us.” The practice of placing unwanted infants in a modern foundling wheel, heated baby hatch, stork cradle, stainless steel baby box, maternity ward, or designated safe haven is a practice that is still used today in many European countries and the United States and the practice is gaining in popularity throughout the world to combat child infanticide—a practice that is as painfully traumatic as it ever was.
adozione | Verabschiedung | adopción | adopsi | vedtagelse | adoptare | 采纳 | 양자