Background: Most handicapped newborns that are abandoned suffer from Down's syndrome. This report describes the frequency of the practice.
Population and methods: All children (95% less than 1 month old) born between 1985 and 1987 in Paris who were placed for adoption by approved agencies were included in this study. Sociofamilial, medical and psychological histories were collected.
Results: A total of 326 infants were abandoned during these 3 years. 38 (12%) of them had Down's syndrome. 25 of the 34 mothers were 30 years old or more. 23 of 27 infants had two known parents. 134 newborns with Down's syndrome were registered in Paris during this period. Thus 27.6% of the total number of Down's syndrome children were abandoned. 87.2% of the abandoned non-trisomic infants were adopted, versus 31.6% of those with Down's syndrome (10.5% died before adoption). The 19 children with Down's syndrome who were not adopted live in foster families.
Conclusion: 2/3 of the mothers who have abandoned their trisomic infant were less than 35 years old and had a middle-class background. Further studies are necessary to better understand the emotional context of abandonment.