|Another book about this appalling history|
The Adoption Crunch, the Christian Right, and the Challenge to Indian
Kathryn Joyce is the
author of The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking
and the New Gospel of Adoption and Quiverfull: Inside the Christian
Patriarchy Movement (Beacon Press 2009).
Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Nation,
Slate, Mother Jones, the Atlantic, and many other publications.
While the demand for adoptable babies is
increasing in the United States—driven in large part by evangelical
Christians—the number of babies available for adoption is declining. Adoption
agencies are now targeting tribal nations as a potential new source of babies
to adopt, and forming alliances that threaten to undermine the sovereignty of
Native American nations.
September 23, 2013, a child-custody battle that was nearly five years in the
making came to its conclusion in Oklahoma when an Army veteran from the
Cherokee Nation, Dusten Brown, handed
over his daughter, Veronica, to Matt and Melanie Capobianco, a White couple from South
Carolina who had raised her for the first two years of her life.1
gained custody of four-year-old Veronica in December 2011, after a South
Carolina court ruled that the adoption process had violated federal Indian law.
Brown’s attorneys also argued that Christina Maldonado—Brown’s ex-fiancé and
Veronica’s biological mother, who is Latina—had deliberately
concealed plans to let the Capobiancos
adopt her.2 As the custody
decision was reversed
following a 2013 Supreme Court ruling,3 and Veronica was tucked
into the Capobiancos’ car to return to South Carolina, the scene was broadcast
across national and social media to two polarized camps. Brown’s
supporters condemned the Capobiancos as baby-snatchers stealing an Indian child
from her loving father, as tens of thousands of Native children had been
systematically removed from their families in decades past. The Capobiancos’
supporters condemned Brown as a deadbeat dad who had given up his rights long
ago and was hiding behind an obsolete law.
In the 1950s and 1960s, boarding schools gave way to the Indian
Adoption Project, which removed children from Native homes and placed
them in foster care or adoptive homes. By the 1970s, an astonishing
one-quarter to one-third of all Indian children in the United States had
been taken away from their families, and 85-90 percent of them were
placed in non-Indian families. The generation came to be known as the “Lost Birds.”55
“There were literally American Indian communities where there were no
children,” said Terry Cross. As the broader Native American community
realized what was happening and began to collect testimony for Congress,
other stories emerged: of Native American women pressured into
relinquishing babies for adoption just after birth while still under the
effects of anesthesia, and of women waking up to find that their babies
were gone and, sometimes, that they had themselves been sterilized.56
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