In most of the births you attend, asking about the baby’s father is not difficult. But in jail, to show respect to the inmate, it can be challenging. Finding that place in your conversation with her to ask the personal question can be like walking on glass. Especially if there are other inmates close by that can hear her answer.
On our intake form that we use for each inmate in our childbirth classes, there is not even have a place to write down the partner’s name. We wait to ask this in person. Many times we do not ask because we don’t need to know. But if it comes to where we know she will be giving birth while incarcerated, this is something we do need to identify. She will be answering questions with DCF/CPI, or whatever County organization you have that will be involved in placing the child with a family member after the birth.
So why is this question difficult? In many cases, they do not know who the father is. Some of the inmates that are will be working with are prostitutes and accidently got pregnant. In some cases, a woman has been with so many men at the time of conception that she says she will have to wait to see the race of the baby and she can cut the list of men of who it may be down to a few. For many, this is embarrassing to acknowledge.
This question is important to ask because in many of the cases, the mother looks to you for guidance as to where the baby should go after she is born. No, it is not your responsibility to find her a place for her baby. But you may have to help her understand who she might think would take the best care of her baby. Many times it can’t be the father because he is also in jail or maybe unfit to parent.
We had a case of a mom that was pregnant with twins. She wanted the boyfriend to have the babies. In our conversations with her over a couple of months discussing this, we strongly encouraged her not to give the twins to him.
He did not have a job. He did not have a place to live. He did not have a car and his driver’s license had been suspended. It was obvious this was not a stable place for them to go. She was sent to prison and the day she got to prison, she had the babies. If it had just been while she was with us. But giving birth at a different facility and a different county so quickly after she had arrived, some of her information did not get checked out completely. The babies went to the boyfriend.
Not long after he got his daughters, he killed on of them – baby shaken syndrome.
This completely changed a part of each doula that works in our organization forever. All of the what ifs………… We mourned for that precious little girl.
Because of this happening to one of “our” baby’s, we knew we had to change. We started asking that question sooner than later. We asked the important questions if she planned on giving the baby to the father after she gave birth. Important questions such as:
*Does he have a good support system to help him with the baby?
*Does he have a safe place to live?
*Does he have a job?
*If he has a job, who will watch the baby while at work?
*Has he been in jail? If yes, do you think this would keep him from
being allowed to have the baby with him.
These questions are not for us to have to give government agencies or to anyone. They are questions to help the inmate start thinking of a safe place for her baby to live. If the person she has chosen is the father of the baby, she needs to have gone through the thought process of the best place for her baby to be loved and to thrive.
These babies are precious, just as all babies are. And my hope is that this information will help you if you need to guide her in finding a safe place where her child will not be abused.
In a typical jail who are the officers? I look forward to sharing my opinion with you in my next blog. Meanwhile go towww.birthbeindbars.com website and www.facebook.com/birthbehindbars and discover more stories.
****Disclaimer: This blog is from the perspective of a jail, not a Sate or Federal prison. Protocol will vary from initiation to institution