Baby hatch is the final option for unwed mothers to leave their illegitimate children in, says Orphancare Foundation.

However, the foundation which provides the baby hatch facility has advised unwed mothers wishing to place their babies under the care of the programme to first seek advice from the foundation.

A member of the Orphancare Foundation's board of trustees, Noraini Hashim said this way, the foundation would be able to identify the babies before handing them over to couples intending to adopt.

"This foundation is very concerned over the baby's life. So, it's better if the unwed mother who wants to send the baby to the baby hatch, meets us first," she told Bernama recently.

Noraini said unidentified babies placed in the baby hatch will only make it difficult for the foundation to determine their status in terms of religion, race and nation.

Since 2009, she said the foundation had rescued a total of 137 abandoned babies. Of this number, 22 babies were found in the baby hatch.

The rescued babies were returned to their respective families following counselling. In other cases, the babies were handed over to foster families.

However, Noraini said, only a small number of babies were placed in the baby hatch, indicating that some unwed mothers chose to abandon their babies rather than send them to the foundation or welfare homes.

She said last year, a total of 15 babies and six others from the baby hatch were rescued by the foundation. This year, three babies and four others from the baby hatch were rescued.

She explained that placing a baby in the hatch was not a crime and that the foundation was always ready to accept abandoned babies to provide protection.

The baby hatch is a box equipped with air-conditioning, mattresses and pillows, lighting, closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras, including sensors to detect the body weight and trigger the alarm to alert the centre's guard that a baby had been placed in the box.

Once the baby is placed in the box, it cannot be re-opened. This serves as a security measure to prevent irresponsible parties from taking the baby.

Noraini said babies placed in the baby hatch would be handed over to couples who were registered for the adoption process carried out by the foundation based on the guidelines of the Social Welfare Department (JKM), with additional conditions from the foundation.

"The conditions involve foster parents attending an eight-hour course in Orphancare, answering a questionnaire from the JKM and Orphancare and surprise visits by the foundation to their (foster parents') house.

"So far, a total of 759 couples have registered to adopt babies from the foundation," she said, adding that 11 baby hatches had been set up nationwide, including three operated by the foundation, namely in Kampung Tunku, Petaling Jaya; Bandar Baru Uda, Johor Baharu; and, Sungai Petani, Kedah.

The others are operated by KPJ Healthcare Berhad (KPJ) at the Damansara Specialist Hospital; KPJ Ipoh, Perak; KPJ Johor; KPJ Tawakal, Kuala Lumpur; KPJ Seremban, Negeri Sembilan; KPJ Pulau Pinang; KPJ Perdana, Kelantan; and, KPJ Kuantan, Pahang.