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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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Ms. Barbara Tapp-Webb, Director of Volunteer Services, and Congressman Donald M. Payne (NJ-10), in Boarder Baby Nursery.
Ms. Barbara Tapp-Webb, Director of Volunteer Services, and Congressman Donald M. Payne (NJ-10), in Boarder Baby Nursery. Photo: Carlton E. Washington

UMDNJ - "Border Babies"

Before the "boarder baby" phenomenon received national media attention during the 1990s, the UMDNJ (University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey) University Hospital was already building the foundation for what has become its most successful volunteer program. Newark was one of the first cities to experience on a large scale the problem of infants left at hospitals, cleared for discharge, but with neither a parent nor guardian available to take them home.

By 2000, University Hospital's Boarder Baby Program, introduced in 1986, had exceeded expectations in helping abandoned infants develop in as normal and caring an environment as possible during their hospital stay. The program also benefits its volunteer caregivers through feelings of satisfaction and appreciation.

The program was initiated in response to observations by physicians and staff that babies "signed over" were not thriving nor developing normally in the busy hospital environment where lights never go out, there are no toys, nor much human contact for cuddling. Some babies were not learning to sit up, some cried all the time, others never cried. To help correct this problem, the Boarder Baby program was created, led by Barbara Webb, in association with the hospital administration, nursing services, the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women's Clubs, and UH's Volunteer Services Department.

The program began in two hospital rooms, each containing three cribs, with six volunteers who visited regularly to hold, feed, and play with infants. Eight years later, the program has its own nursery containing fourteen cribs and donated toys, and with more volunteers. Volunteers have been hospital staff, students from the affiliated medical school, and people of all ages from high school students to grandparents. Some volunteers have adopted the babies.

Many urban hospitals now have some type of boarder baby program. The program has been important in generating public attention, so that government action has been taken to address the border baby problem.

Documentation includes 10 color photographs, newspaper clippings, magazine articles, news releases, a TV news segment script, and a congressional newsletter.

Originally submitted by: Donald M. Payne, Representative (10th District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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