DEAR ABBY: Your answer to "Heartbroken in Alabama" (Jan. 2) did not go deep enough. The pregnant sister, "Nicole," who is facing prison time, needs to contact the Department of Children's Services in her county/state as soon as possible. They will oversee the placement of her child if said child is born in jail or prison.
A child born in custody becomes a ward of the state, and if arrangements can be made prior to birth for a foster family, it could benefit the child and "Heartbroken." -- OBSTETRICAL RN IN MICHIGAN
DEAR RN: Thank you for writing. Readers' views were emotionally charged about this subject, as you will see:
DEAR ABBY: "Heartbroken" is upset because her parents want to raise her sister's child while her sister serves a prison sentence. It should be the sister's decision who will raise the child, no one else's.
It sounds like the parents intend to maintain the family ties and make sure the child knows his/her birth mother, regardless of the circumstances. This is especially important, since the birth father is married and probably unavailable. It's unlikely the birth mother would be released from prison ready and able, emotionally and financially, to care for her child. But if the parents have custody, a relationship can still be formed and the child won't be cast to the wind.
If I were the birth mother, I wouldn't want my child raised by a sister who has no compassion or empathy for me. "Heartbroken" is behaving like the child is a commodity with no rights or needs of his/her own. That child needs to view the birth mother as someone of value (as everyone is) in order to develop a healthy sense of self. I urge "Heartbroken" and her husband to educate themselves about the emotional needs of adopted children before they take ANY child into their home. -- ADOPTIVE MOTHER IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR ABBY: "Heartbroken" may desperately want to be a mother and her mother may want to raise her grandchild, but has either of them given consideration to the special needs that Nicole's child will likely be born with?
We have two adopted children whose birth mothers had varying degrees of alcohol and drug dependency. Our boys have learning disabilities, seizures, ADHD and more. They require numerous kinds of therapy and more doctors' appointments than we had with our six biological children combined.
Adoption is a wonderful process and the joys of raising a child with special needs are numerous. However, "Heartbroken" and her mother both need to be aware that adopting a bundle of joy whose mother was drugged and/or drank during pregnancy means they will be raising a child who has some level of disability.
"Heartbroken," DO YOUR RESEARCH. I'd hate to see your heart broken again. -- MOM WHO KNOWS IN IDAHO
DEAR ABBY: Having an addiction does not absolve Nicole from facing the music for her past actions -- she may indeed serve time. But respect and empathy are more appropriate reactions to her situation than judgment and criticism. It's likely Nicole is already providing herSELF with plenty of those.
"Heartbroken" should consider talking with her sister to validate how hard it must be for Nicole, who "always wanted to be a mom," to finally be pregnant but facing jail time instead of nursery time. I know several women in the same situation, who acted on what they perceived to be in the best interest of their child. They facilitated the adoption of the child, most often sending the child to a loving and trusted relative, especially a sibling. -- ADDICTION MEDICINE DOC IN NEW ENGLAND
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)