Traditionally, the first babies born in the New Year period in many U.S. communities have their arrival marked with news stories, complete with photos of the smiling new families. This year, however, many health care providers, including one of the country's largest, have decided to keep the information secret, citing security concerns raised by a child safety advocacy group.
Community Health Systems, which runs 207 facilities across the U.S., recently ordered an end to the practice, after the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) issued guidance suggesting that it could place the infants at an increased risk of abduction, or identity theft, according to an Associated Press report.
Guidance issued by the NCMEC suggested that health care providers obtain parental consent, eliminate home addresses and other identifying information from birth announcements or stop providing them to media altogether.
The organization added that that 293 infant abductions from healthcare facilities took place between 1983 and 2014.
In addition to the Community Health systems moratorium, Commonwealth Health hospitals in Pennsylvania, as well as hospitals in Indiana, Virginia and Alabama have also decided to either stop releasing information on the first children born on New Year's day, or change the information that they release about the infants.
“The birth of a baby is a joyous event and we know there is always interest in the first baby of the new year,” said Renita Fennick, director of communications for Commonwealth Health, adding: “but our first obligation is to the safety and privacy of our patients, which is why we have made this decision,” according to the Times Leader.
Hospitals in Alabama announced that they would no longer permit media to interview parents of New Year's babies, or publish their photographs, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.
Hospitals will not seek to prevent parents from sharing any information on the birth of their children on social media, but those following the new guidance will not make it available themselves, according to WWBT.