In Jonas's community, the Committee of Elders regulates the birth rate and examines each newborn to determine if they are healthy and meeting their appropriate developmental goals. Any child who is not progressing mentally, emotionally, or physically at a normal rate is released. Jonas's father is a Nurturer, who is responsible for all the physical and emotional needs of every infant during its earliest life and also conducts the release ceremonies. In the story, Jonas's father takes home a newborn named Gabriel in hopes that he will eventually meet his development goals and avoid being released.
In Jonas's austere, highly-organized community, any individual who does not completely conform or fit into their society is released. After Jonas is selected to be the community's next Receiver of Memory, the Giver makes him watch a release ceremony, where his father proceeds to lethally inject a newborn twin that is not as healthy as its sibling. Jonas is appalled at witnessing the incident and vows to leave the community.
While Lowry does not specify the number of releases that take place each year, the audience can infer that it is a typical occurrence given the community's low birth rate. The reason why releasing infants is such a significant part of the Nurturer's occupation concerns the committee's insistence on complete uniformity. In order to create a completely uniform population, every child with an abnormality must be released, which explains why it is a common practice in Jonas's community.