Pregnant women in prison may be rare — only 3.5 percent of women entering all prisons were pregnant upon arrival — but it’s still important for these women to understand their rights and options. If you’re a woman finding yourself pregnant in jail or you’re about to enter jail knowing that you’ll be giving birth in prison, you may wonder whether a prison adoption is a possibility for you.
The answer is yes. Like any other pregnant woman, you have the right to make the decision that you feel is best for you and your baby’s future — including making an adoption plan that you’re comfortable with. While some of your adoption options may be limited while you’re in prison, you can always choose a prison infant adoption if you think it’s the best path.
But, how exactly does a prison baby adoption work? Each adoption is unique, but here are some general steps you will likely take in this process.
- Decide that adoption is right for you.
If you know that you will be giving birth in prison, you’ll need to consider how you will provide for your baby. Not all prisons will allow you to keep your child in your custody, especially if you’re serving a long sentence. It’s important that you make a plan for your baby before they’re born, because if you don’t, your child will likely be placed in the foster care system to await your release from prison or a future adoption opportunity.
One option is to place your baby with a friend or family member in a temporary guardianship until you’re released from prison. But, what if you don’t have any friends or family members who can provide a safe, stable environment for a baby? You should seriously consider the well-being of your baby and only choose the option that can provide him or her the best future possible.
In many cases, this may be a prison adoption. When you place your child for adoption, you know that they will live with a family that is prepared and excited to raise an adopted child — and willing to give them all the opportunities possible in life. If you’re curious about placing your baby for adoption while you’re in jail, talk to your prison caseworker; they can provide you advice and counsel to help you make this important decision.
- Choose an Adoption Professional.
Because prison regulations and restrictions vary, an adoption professional may or may not be able to interact with you directly. Therefore, your point of contact will likely be your prison caseworker, who will help you through every step of your prison adoption process.
Because prisons tend to work with the same adoption agencies and lawyers for each adoption, your caseworker will likely recommend certain adoption professionals. But, as a prospective birth mother, you always have the right to choose which professional is right for you. If you’re not yet in prison, take the time to research and talk to potential adoption professionals. If you’re in prison and deciding on adoption (or know someone who is), ask your caseworker if you can do research or enlist a friend or family member to research for you.
American Adoptions is always here to answer any questions you have and help you decide whether adoption is right for you. We will provide support to you, gather background information from you, assist you with selecting a family and help with any pregnancy related needs not met at your jail.
- Choose an Adoptive Family.
Like any other pregnant woman considering adoption, if you’re pregnant in prison, you will have the opportunity to pick the family that you want to adopt your child. While you likely won’t be able to meet the family ahead of time or ask them your questions directly, your caseworker and your adoption professional representative will work closely together to find a family that matches your preferences (like where the family lives, what their family makeup is and more). From there, you will receive adoptive family profiles that you can look at.
- Sharing Contact with the Adoptive Family
Many pregnant women considering adoption choose to share contact with the adoptive family before, during and after the adoption process. If you’re pregnant and in jail, your options may be a bit limited — but contact is certainly still a possibility.
One of the most common ways that birth mothers in jail can contact an adoptive family is through letters but, depending on your prison rules and level of comfort, you may be able to share phone calls with the family. As part of your financial assistance, the adoptive family may pay for your phone calls, as well as mailing materials like stamps and paper. American Adoptions will work with you, the jail and the adoptive family you choose to get you connected in any way possible so you can create a relationship with the potential adoptive couple.
After you’re released from prison, stay in touch with your caseworker and adoption professional to keep receiving contact from your baby’s adoptive family and to receive any updates about the adoptive family’s desire to increase contact.
- Giving Birth and Signing Adoption Consent
What happens when you give birth to a baby in jail? That’s a good question. First, know that you will likely be moved to a nearby hospital when it’s time to have your baby. Your hospital stay will be arranged by you, your caseworker and your adoption professional. While your options may be limited because you’re incarcerated, you may still get to choose how long you want to hold your baby, whether you meet the adoptive family and more. American Adoptions will work with you and the adoptive couple to create a transition plan that’s in the best interest of all of you.
While you’re at the hospital, you’ll sign your final adoption consent paperwork. Most of your paperwork will have been completed earlier in your adoption process, but a lawyer will be there to walk you through what you’re signing and inform you of your legal rights in a prison adoption. Your state laws will determine when you can sign your consent for the adoption, but know that waiting too long may jeopardize your adoption process and lead to your baby being placed in state custody.
After you sign your adoption consent and are discharged from the hospital, you will return to prison, where your adoption caseworker will continue to work with you for post-placement contact and counseling through any difficult emotions you may encounter.
As you can see, a prison baby adoption is not much different than any other private domestic infant adoption. American Adoptions and your prison caseworker will be there with you every step of the way. Most importantly, you can know that your baby that you gave birth to while pregnant in prison will live a happy life with a loving adoptive family.
Sometimes, women ask us, “Can you go to jail for giving a child up for adoption?” Whether it’s because they’re worried about the legal repercussions of adoption or are afraid that placing a child for adoption might increase their sentence, there’s no need to worry — as long as it’s completed with the assistance of the proper professionals, your adoption is completely legal. In fact, choosing adoption will protect you from charges of child abandonment or neglect if you find care for your child in an illegal or ill-advised way.
You may also be asking, “Can someone adopt my child if I am in jail?’ It’s not uncommon for women with children already born to enter prison, realize that they want a better life for their child back at home (especially if they are serving a long sentence) and want to place the child for adoption with or transfer guardianship to someone who can provide the proper care their child needs. This is entirely possible; if you are wishing to place a child who is already born, American Adoptions can assist you, depending on who currently has custody of your child and your child’s age.
At American Adoptions, our social workers are happy to work with pregnant women in prison or about to enter prison. We can help you decide if adoption is right for you and, if so, help you set up an adoption plan that you’re happy with. To talk to an adoption specialist for free (and with absolutely no obligation to choose adoption), please call 1-800-ADOPTION today.