State Journal birth notices to end because of hospitals' new policy

2014-01-01T11:00:00Z State Journal birth notices to end because of hospitals' new policyDAVID WAHLBERG | Wisconsin State Journal | | 608-252-6125

The State Journal will stop publishing birth announcements later this week because Madison’s two birthing hospitals will no longer provide the information to the newspaper.

The end of the traditional keepsake for parents and notice to the community stems from a growing concern about infant abductions, hospital officials say.

Birth listings “set people up as targets for somebody who might want to steal a baby,” said Kathy Kostrivas, Meriter Hospital’s assistant vice president for women’s health services.

“It’s an effort to improve safety and security for families,” said Kim Sveum, spokeswoman for St. Mary’s Hospital.

State Journal city editor Phil Brinkman said the paper can’t print the notices unless it gets the information from a hospital or other trusted source.

“Like obituaries, the potential for mischief is too great when it comes to taking this information directly from individuals over the phone or by email, which is why we rely on hospitals to provide it on the parents’ behalf,” Brinkman said.

“I understand the hospitals’ concern for the safety of their patients and their families,” he said. “But we have only published birth announcements from parents who have consented to share their news with their friends, neighbors and co-workers.”

The hospitals said they will stop providing information on babies born after Wednesday.

Kostrivas and Sveum said at least two groups have long recommended that hospitals not share the information.

A 1999 alert to hospitals by the Joint Commission, which accredits hospitals, discussed eight infant abductions in hospitals.

“Discontinue publication of birth notices in local newspapers,” the alert said.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children tells parents to consider the risk of birth notices.

“In general, birth announcements in newspapers are not endorsed by most experts,” says a guide by the center, called, “What Parents Should Know.”

At least 290 babies have been abducted in the U.S. since 1983, including 132 at health care facilities, according to the center. Four cases, from 1989 to 1993, were linked by law enforcement to birth announcements, the center says.

“Our world is so different now than it was 25 to 30 years ago,” said Cathy Nahirny, the center’s senior analyst for infant abduction cases. Abductors “are using every means available to them to select a possible victim infant,” she said.

One reason some hospitals are no longer providing birth information is a fear of lawsuits, Nahirny said.

The Wisconsin Hospital Association and the American Hospital Association don’t track how many hospitals provide the information and how many don’t, spokeswomen said.

The State Journal’s free birth announcements included the date, hospital name, parents’ full names and whether the baby was a son or a daughter. The announcements did not list the parents’ hometown.

Sveum said St. Clare Hospital in Baraboo, which like St. Mary’s is owned by SSM Health Care of Wisconsin, is evaluating whether to continue providing birth information to the Baraboo News Republic and the Wisconsin Dells Events.

St. Mary’s Janesville, which is also owned by SSM and opened two years ago, hasn’t given birth information to newspapers.

Kostrivas said hospitals also discourage parents from posting birth news on social media.

Jade Lewis mostly followed that advice after her daughter, Kaia, was born at St. Mary’s in August. She posted three photos on Facebook, but not until two months after the birth.

Lewis, of Madison, said she’s disappointed newspaper birth announcements are going away.

She clipped Kaia’s State Journal notice for her scrapbook, and friends of her husband’s parents called with congratulations, saying they learned about the birth in the newspaper.

“It was a nice little celebratory blurb that made you smile,” she said.

Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(27) Comments

  1. Jack Sanders
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    Jack Sanders - January 03, 2014 11:53 am
    Our community weekly newspaper in Connecticut has been publishing birth announcements, with color photos, for many years. However, we have never relied upon hospitals for information and instead, ask the parents to submit it. Many do. And we celebrate the year's babies each end-of-December issue with a front page Happy New Year collage of year's baby faces:
  2. EMS123
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    EMS123 - January 02, 2014 12:09 pm
    Seems like a good idea. It's never smart to share personal information about your family with such a broad audience. Basing the policy purely on infant abductions seems like a bit of a stretch, but there are other concerns as well. Identity theft is easier and easier with a name and a birthday, which are included in these announcements. In a similar vein, people should also stop putting those family stickers on their cars that show their kids/pets in stick figure fashion. Infant abduction may be rare, but it's far more likely that someone would try to snatch a kid on the way home from school. Advertising the presence and age of the kids at your home is just plain dangerous. Share the joy with friends through email or Facebook, but keep the information out of the general public if you can.
  3. dk9s
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    dk9s - January 02, 2014 12:35 am
    At least one hospital here has a locked birthing floor. If you go to visit a new mom you have to stop at the desk, tell them who you are visiting and they have to buzz you in. The babies aren't in a nursery but with their mom and have an ID band on that sets off an alarm if removed or they are removed from the OB floor. So the hospitals here appear to be doing everything to keep the babies safe already.
  4. number6
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    number6 - January 01, 2014 5:15 pm
    Oh, please. Clearly a cover-your-behind move on the part of hospitals wary of being accused of contributing to the crime by releasing the info. Guess what? If I am completely crazed and looking to steal a kid, I will probably still check the hospital for available victims.
  5. monotone
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    monotone - January 01, 2014 3:00 pm
    So the United States averages about 10 baby abductions a year.... That is a crazy low number to take such precautions... You are more likely to slip and fall on ice while getting your morning paper then having your baby abducted.. Pretty silly.
  6. woodysguitar
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    woodysguitar - January 01, 2014 2:56 pm
    When did Americans become such quivering cowards, afraid of every aspect of life?

  7. Stan2013
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    Stan2013 - January 01, 2014 2:05 pm
    We were proud to have our daughter's birth published in the State Journal. Neither my wife nor I were particularly concerned for our safety based on the limited information that is published. This move seems rooted in fearmongering and paranoia unrelated to the facts. As another poster suggested, baby abductions are largely due to lax hospital security, not a newspaper announcement.
  8. River
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    River - January 01, 2014 1:22 pm
    Fear Mongering.
  9. snootyelites
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    snootyelites - January 01, 2014 12:16 pm
    Statistically speaking there is no evidence of higher infant abductions, on the contrary it's figment of media psychosis. But the evidence of hospitals screwing up is actually higher. For these hospitals to make this type of decision has to do with internal processes, liabilities & cover ups than some criminal running away with an infant or for that matter patient privacy. This is an absurd policy they should reverse it.
  10. adamman
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    adamman - January 01, 2014 11:39 am
    Has anyone pointed out that the parents/grandparents/etc. can publish a notice themselves? Probably would cost a few bucks but the SJ needs to make payroll. Hey, come to think of it, that might be the motive behind this whole right wing conspiracy. Follow the money.
  11. adamman
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    adamman - January 01, 2014 11:34 am
    Jim: Great point!
  12. middleton_jim
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    middleton_jim - January 01, 2014 10:13 am
    While I can see both sides of the argument, I think erring on the side of infant safety is best. My question is, how will we be able to tell if one is eligible to be President without these published notices?
  13. RichardSRussell
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    RichardSRussell - January 01, 2014 9:59 am
    If this applies retroactively, now we'll never know where Barack Obama was born.

    (No, for the irony-impaired, this is not a serious comment.)
  14. Lexus Peterson
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    Lexus Peterson - January 01, 2014 8:37 am
    Public records? Because it's your right to know who had a baby? You're insane. You should just push a law that a tweet must be posted to you every time someone has sex. You would enjoy that since you're clearly not getting any.
  15. YetAnotherStateEmployee
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    YetAnotherStateEmployee - January 01, 2014 8:02 am
    This is really sad. And dumb. With the short birthing stays in hospitals these days the Mom and baby are likely to already have gone home by the time the birth announcement appears, even if it appears the next day.

    Births and deaths are public records.

    This is completely ridiculous.

  16. Lexus Peterson
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    Lexus Peterson - January 01, 2014 7:57 am
    People that live in a bubble and only in front if their tv wouldn't know the reality of baby abductions. Hospitals have for years advised new parents not to put new any signs or welcome signs outside. Birthing announcers in the paper was always kind of a dumb idea. Anybody that you really wanted to know about it will know. It's just the newspaper afraid of losing yet another reason for their printed existence.
  17. Coinneach
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    Coinneach - January 01, 2014 2:13 am
    Our pre-natal classes at St Mary's seven years ago were a paranoid scare-fest. My wife raised her hand at one point and asked the instructor if she had any data or statistics to back up the fear-mongering. Of course she didn't and mumbled something about "can't be too careful." So this new move surprises me only in that they didn't do it sooner. Most infant abductions, rare as they are, are carried out by disgruntled family members. Ending birth notices does nothing, except feed unnecessary fear in our society. Pathetic.
  18. WI_Expat
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    WI_Expat - December 31, 2013 11:13 pm
    Hmmm, would have thought the reason would be more closely aligned with HIPPA and not some nonsense about "possible infant abductions"

    But then again, what's sexy and sells papers about saying its about crimes of person and not government mandate.
  19. adamman
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    adamman - December 31, 2013 9:41 pm
    Yes, same sex marriage = population control.. Not the solution
  20. pony
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    pony - December 31, 2013 9:19 pm
    thats what same sex marriage is for
  21. JoeBiteme
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    JoeBiteme - December 31, 2013 7:56 pm
    How about replacing the space with another boring article by Zweifel taking pot shots at Governor Walker.
  22. adamman
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    adamman - December 31, 2013 6:43 pm
    Buckyz: I asked my grandfather about that and he remembered reading your birth announcement around 1914. He remembered the name because he thought it was odd.
  23. Buckyz
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    Buckyz - December 31, 2013 5:34 pm
    Did anyone besides the parents ever read it anyway? I do not recall ever picking up the paper in anticipation of reading the birth announcements.
  24. adamman
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    adamman - December 31, 2013 3:46 pm
    Lighten up? How about "tighten up"? How 'bout reinstating the death penalty for those who abuse or harm children. They are the part of our society least able to protect themselves. Then we may not have to worry so much about sickos stealing babies from hospitals.
  25. circletrack
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    circletrack - December 31, 2013 3:25 pm
    I remember when the newspapers used to print the parents address along with the birth notice - can you imagine that?! :) What a sad world we live in, what should be a joyous time for parents has turned into the latest obsession that someone may sneak in and take your child, seriously? This nation we live in needs to lighten up.
  26. adamman
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    adamman - December 31, 2013 2:51 pm
    What a sick commentary about our society. When I die, I hope there will be a ban on obituaries. I have one gold tooth and I'm afraid someone will steal my body to get the tooth. That would really irritate me to death. Why not just ban having babies altogether so nothing bad could happen at all, ever. I hope things don't go so far that the birth of a child is kept secret from the parents, (especially the mother), just in case they might not be good parents. We can't be too careful!.
  27. Davisra
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    Davisra - December 31, 2013 2:18 pm
    Looks like the majority of baby abductions resulted from lax health facility security, NOT from a notice being published in the newspaper. If someone wants to steal a baby they're not going to be looking in the newspaper for a baby - they'll go to where the babies are since they likely don't care who the baby belongs to.

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