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Ask an Adoptee: Can a Jailed Birthmother Lose the Rights to her Child?

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By Ask_An_Adoptee - Posted on 18 February 2009

Adoption Under One Roof facilitates the column “Ask an Adoptee” in order to provide informed answers from an adoptee’s perspective, experience and knowledge base. The bloggers on Adoption Under One Roof recognize that we are all adoptive parents but not adoptees and would like to provide our readers with an opportunity to hear what adoptees have to say. We have several adoptees that have been kind enough to offer to participate in this column and we thank them for donating their time to our website.

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Dear Ask an Adoptee,

"If a mom is put in jail, can she lose her rights over her baby in Indiana?" 



Dear Worried,

This question is vague in that it does not tell me which crime that the mother has committed or if she has been found guilty. There are certain crimes in which the parental rights will be involuntarily terminated. These crimes are found in this portion of the Indiana code. These crimes are murder, causing a suicide, voluntary/involuntary manslaughter, rape, criminal deviate conduct, child molestation/exploitation, sexual misconduct with a minor and incest. Most states usually allow a parent the opportunity to clean up their act so to speak. That time frame is usually a year from the date of birth of the child if the mother is pregnant.

If the mother is in jail, she could be subject to legal/personal advice or pressure to relinquish her child. It depends upon how long she is in jail. If it is less than a year, she probably will not have her rights terminated. If it is longer than that, the state of Indiana will require her to decide on permanent placement of her child through kinship care, foster care, or adoption. These are all serious considerations that a mother needs to consider.

If it is a drug crime where she was found in possession of drugs or had drugs in her system, that is considered child abuse. The state of Indiana could force her hand in that because they require CPS to be called. If she is going to jail for a long period of time, her parental rights will be terminated. If she is subjected to drug rehab, then she will have to follow every court order and CPS requirement in order to keep her parental rights. It’s very important that she maintains these requirements. One slip up and she will lose her parental rights.

Indiana has great resources to help her care for her child if she is not going to jail. They have a great health insurance plan for impoverished children. They have a food stamp program and other resources to help her parent her child. She should also check into kinship care while she is in jail. Place her child in a guardianship (Usually a grandmother or sibling could qualify) for her child.

I hope this has helped,

Amy K. Burt


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