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Friday, October 16, 2020

Larimer County (Colorado) violated federal Indian child adoption law, court finds


With the passage of ICWA, Congress found that terminations of parental rights had the effect of separating Indian children from their tribal communities. Around the time of the law’s enactment, up to 35% of Indian children were living in foster care or were adopted or institutionalized. A lack of culturally-competent standards for assessing Indian families, poverty in Indian country and economic incentives for adoption all led to the high rates of removal. 

Despite the fact that states routinely violated the rights of the Indian parents and children, the Bureau of Indian Affairs found as recently as 2016 that states have implemented ICWA inconsistently, with the upshot that “an Indian child and her parents in one State can receive different rights and protections under Federal law than an Indian child and her parents in another State.”

The National Indian Child Welfare Association reports that even with ICWA, native children still experience removal from their homes at two to three times the rate of white children.

The bureau did not immediately answer an inquiry about the number of custody hearings pursuant to ICWA that occur in Colorado annually. Kathryn E. Fort, director of the Indian Law Clinic at Michigan State University's College of Law, said there were at least 16 appeals of ICWA-related custody proceedings in Colorado between 2017 and 2019. She added that the difficult nature of aggregating cases meant that not all proceedings are included in her tally.

The appellate panel returned the adoption case to the Larimer County juvenile court with instructions to the human services department to notify all relevant parties.



Thursday, October 15, 2020

American Indian Children Still Removed From Homes at High Rates

 repost from 11/9/2015


Almost 40 years after the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) passed, American Indian children are still being removed from their homes in highly disproportionate numbers– at a rate almost three times higher than any other ethnicity, excepting African American children.

Minnesota leads the list of states with the worst rates of disproportionate removal– where American Indian children are overly represented in the foster care system– according to a June 2015 report from the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.  Other states with high numbers of disproportionate removal include Nebraska, Iowa, Idaho, Wisconsin, Washington, South Dakota and Oregon.

Even in states without dramatic removal rates– like Arizona and New Mexico– many American Indian children find themselves removed from their families and placed in group homes, treatment centers or foster care.

In McKinley County, New Mexico,  American Indian children make up 73 percent of all children in foster care, according to a 2015  third quarter report from the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD).  And in Arizona, over 1,300 American Indian children were in the foster care system as of March 31, 2015, according to a Department of Child Safety Child Welfare Report.

The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 applies to any child of American Indian descent who is an enrolled member or eligible for enrollment in any federally recognized tribe. When an American Indian child enters state custody, the state must contact the child’s tribe, and the tribe has the right to transfer the case to tribal court or to participate in court proceedings.

In order to help American Indian children stay connected to their tribal cultures and identities, ICWA also established a placement preference that starts with the child’s extended family and clan relatives and then progresses to enrolled members of the child’s tribe and enrolled members from any tribe– with placement of the child in a non-Indian family as a last resort.

“Any child who might be Native American, they have a [cultural] identity,” said Regina Yazzie, Program Director of the Navajo Nation Division of Social Services.  “It’s a benefit.”

Yazzie added that across the country, state agencies struggle to find American Indian foster families for children.  Finding placement families on reservation land can prove equally challenging.

Data from the Children, Youth and Families Department of New Mexico shows there are currently 43 American Indian foster care providers who have 79 placements available– nowhere near enough for the 262 American Indian children in New Mexico’s foster care system.  Melissa Otero from also said through an email correspondence that less than 1 percent of all AdoptUsKids placement families identify as American Indian.

When speaking with the Navajo Post, several tribal members mentioned hardships on reservations that negatively impacted families’ ability to foster– including poverty, poor housing, poor mental health care, suicide, and addiction.

“Part of what’s going on [is] drug and alcohol numbers are sky high,” said one tribal member, who wished to remain anonymous in order to be able to speak freely. “There are not a lot of healthy families. There are tons of families that care, but it takes structure, it takes money [to foster], and so many families are overwhelmed with the day to day living, how could they bring another child into their home?”

For the San Carlos Apache Tribe, methamphetamine poses a particular devastating problem.   Social services Director Terry Ross said that the reservation currently has an “epidemic of mothers with meth-exposed babies.”

“We try to work with the family, but when mothers are addicted to meth… it’s hard,” Ross said. “We can’t make people do anything. They have to want to change for their child.”

Many tribes offer social services like counseling, parenting classes, detox centers and emergency supplies to American Indian families in need. But representatives from several tribes mentioned that funding is limited and resources are stretched thin, so that American Indian children continue to find themselves in foster care– where many undergo significant trauma and loss of identity when growing up separated from their tribes, communities, and cultures.

A Sense of Belonging

Sandra White Hawk, an enrolled member of the Sicangu Lakota of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe,  was adopted into a white missionary family when she was 18 months old in the days before ICWA. The only Indian girl in her community, she grew up with a sense of being “different.”

“My adoptive mother constantly reminded me that no matter what I did, I came from a pagan race whose only hope for redemption was to assimilate to white culture,” wrote White Hawk, now executive director of the First Nations Repatriation Institute, on her website.

White Hawk added that people in her community were ignorant of her culture when she was growing up; they would ask her to do rain dances or give war whoops.  Susan Devan Harness, a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, was also adopted into a non-Indian family at 18 months. Harness said she was called “Squaw Girl” growing up and that she had trouble finding dates in high school because her male classmates’ mothers believed stereotypes that American Indian women were promiscuous– and that dating one would get their sons in trouble.

“I have had privileges,” said Harness of her adoption. “Living in a nice neighborhood, going to college, I have a Master’s Degree…a place at the table. But I have paid a huge price for those privileges."

As part of that price, Harness said she was always fighting for a place of belonging, and that many adoptees exist in an “in between place” between their tribal communities and their adoptive families. White Hawk’s website states that many adult adoptees also show traits of survivors of trauma: anxiety, impulsivity, nightmares, guilt, and unresolved guilt– and that much healing of these issues takes place for adoptees when they reconnect with their tribal identities or “come home.”

“In the beginning I didn’t see the importance of why anyone would want to know my story as an adoptee because I didn’t understand the prevalence,” said White Hawk. “I get it now.”

White Hawk added that reconnecting with her biological family and tribe later in life allowed a “whole new part” of herself to awaken.  She sees similar transformations in the adoptees she works with – as does Karen Vigneault, a librarian who uses her research skills to search genealogy records and connect adoptees with their families.

Vigneault said that adoptees face many obstacles back-peddling through their pasts: opening sealed court documents, misspellings in their ancestors’ names or lack of names which makes tracing families difficult, and apprehension at returning to their communities and families decades later. Despite the challenges, Vigneault provides her help to adoptees free from charge.

“If Creator has people asking me for help, I can’t charge them for that,” Vigneault said. “To help them come home… it should be a free ride.”

A 2009 report published by the Annie E Casey Foundation found that resilience– the ability to bounce back after a traumatic or difficult experience– increases dramatically for American Indian individuals who have seven protective factors in their lives, including: 

a sense of belonging to a culture, spirituality, connections to the tribal language and extended family, a sense of humor, a mindset of forward thinking or “moving forward to the seventh generation,” and what authors Charlotte Goodluck and Angela Willeto describe as “responses from the culture”– which could include beadwork, drumming, sweat lodge, talking circles, smudging, pow wows and other ceremonies.

The association between resilience and strong rootedness in tribal culture have significant implications for American Indian children within the foster care and adoption systems today.

Tania Valdez, associate director of the voluntary treatment foster care program La Familia-Namaste, Inc in New Mexico, described the change she saw occur in a young woman in care when an ICWA worker sent her music and books from her Oklahoma tribe.

“I think it plays a tremendous role in her cultural identity. It’s part of who she is,” Valdez said. “She’s removed from her community, but it gave her a piece of her culture, and she embraced that.”

Nikki Kull, executive vice president of The Ranches in New Mexico, said that children in care struggle to transition from one culture to another, regardless of their race.

“We had some siblings from the Yuni tribe who were very connected to their culture… and it was hard for them to be separated from their culture. It’s heart-breaking to see,” Kull said. “I desperately understand the need for kids to stay within their culture, but the fact remains there aren’t enough homes.”

The Indian Child Welfare Act Today
Several judges who spoke with the Navajo Post said that ICWA was meant to be a gold standard for family law cases– that active efforts to work with families before removing children from their homes would be in the best interest of all children regardless of their race.

But lawsuits in several states– Minnesota, Arizona, Oklahoma and Virginia– challenge the constitutionality of ICWA. Common arguments include that the Act’s language discriminates against American Indian children on race alone and that the Act violates due process and privacy rights guaranteed by the Tenth and Fourteenth Amendments.

Judge Tim Connors, who teaches at the University of Michigan Law School and helps train new judges in handling ICWA cases, said that family law is mainly an issue for state courts, so that applying  ICWA– a federal law– to American Indian family cases is a “foreign concept” for many judges.  But he added that American Indian children are particularly harmed when removed from their families.

“Data shows the trauma when we separate children from their communities and their culture and their lineages,” Connors said. “And it is particularly harmful for Native American children.”

Judge William Thorne, vice-president of the National Indian Justice Center and a former member of the Board of Trustees for the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, said that while some judges and lawyers see ICWA as a violation of their code of ethics regarding fairness, ICWA was created with American Indian children’s best interest in mind.

“In tribal communities, if you cut a child off from their family, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, that really is almost active abuse against that child, because in Indian communities things happen based on relationships,” Thorne said in a video produced by the Mississippi Administrative Office of Courts.

Judge Leonard Edwards, a retired judge who served for 26 years as a Superior Court Judge and six years as Judge-in-Residence at the Center for Families, Children & the Courts, stated that the adversarial processes prevalent in courts– where two or more sides argue their cases and then a “winner” is declared– go against traditional American Indian practices of resolving conflict.  Edwards said that the intention behind ICWA was to help make sure that all of an American Indian child’s resources were being considered.

“Social workers can be creative,” Edwards said. “It’s not mum and dad, it’s the extended family and community. It’s different [in tribal communities] and that can be difficult for our judges to understand.”

While ICWA has been acknowledged by many judges as a difficult law to understand and implement, tribes across the country insist keeping American Indian children connected to their tribes is of utmost importance.

“[If not] They lose the language, the culture, the integrity of what it is to be Native American and the values system,” said Doris Bailon, director of Social Services of the Santo Domingo Pueblo.

Sandra White Hawk and Susan Devan Harness had a suggestion to reduce the number of American Indian children entering the foster care system: providing “front end services.”

“Instead of the money going to clothe and feed kids in foster care, have that money going to strengthen Native families and communities,” Harness said.

SOURCE (broken)

Adoption and Addiction: Be someone you cannot be? VIDEO

(repost from 1/15/2012) I do agree: an impossible job description: be someone you cannot be... adoption causes grief...hunger for attachment...trauma played out...catastrophic thinking...enormous wound at beginning of life...PTSD... Absolutely... Yes, all true... Trace

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Bill Addresses Cultural Genocide Caused by Indian Boarding Schools


For about 100 years, the U.S. government supported a system of boarding schools where more than 100,000 American Indian and Alaska Native children were stripped of their culture, their languages, and their religions and forced to assimilate to white customs.

That policy, which continued until the 1960s, has continued affects on native communities today, says a bill filed this week by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M. 

The United States has never fully accounted for the harms caused by the schools, the lawmakers said. Their bill, which has attracted a bipartisan list of cosponsors, would form a "Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policy" to compile records and oral accounts of what happened in at 367 Indian boarding schools across 30 states. Those schools educated children as young as five years old and sometimes forced them into labor in white communities far from their homes, advocacy groups say, but many records of their practices have been lost or destroyed.

GOOD NEWS: Bill Addresses Cultural Genocide Caused by Indian Boarding Schools - Politics K-12 - Education Week

Alaskans should be mad

 Sullivan should stand up for principle, stand down on Barrett nomination


 caption: Senator Dan Sullivan met with U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett on Sept. 30, 2020. (Photo provided by Sen. Sullivan office)

Where does Judge Barrett stand on Native American issues? 

While her record is thin, Alaska Natives should be concerned. Barrett has repeatedly stated that she shares the late Justice Scalia’s judicial philosophy, and he voted against tribal interests in over 86% of the cases he heard, including all of the cases he considered when she clerked for him in 1999.

Justice Scalia was also skeptical of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), a 1978 law enacted to prevent state agencies from forcibly removing Indian children from their families and placing them in Native American boarding schools or in non-Indian foster and adoptive homes. In the earliest Supreme Court case to interpret ICWA, Justice Scalia voted to uphold tribal jurisdiction, but in later years said that it was a vote he regretted.

READ: Sullivan should stand up for principle, stand down on Barrett nomination - Anchorage Daily News

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Dear Dad, You are Still Racist


by Author Mae Claire, born in Haiti raised in the USA.

A letter to my deceased father who illegally trafficked me out of an orphanage in Haiti. 
My works:
Insta: @liftingtaboos


Adoption is dangerous. Oftentimes we do it and we don’t even really know or understand why we are doing it. We do it because in the moment, it ​feels​ like the right thing. We do it because we think it is going to fix something in us. Maybe it does fix something in us…but it leaves the adoptee with scars, bruises and longing for what could have been.

Dear dad, now you are dead and can probably see and understand the pain you caused. If there is any way you can infiltrate the lives of others who have adopted or are hoping to adopt and warn them of the dangers; we adoptees will forever be grateful.

May you not rest in peace until you have saved other adoptees from the same pain.

FANTASTIC WRITING: Adopted from Haiti, Mae | InterCountry Adoptee Voices (ICAV)



Friday, October 2, 2020

Canada's residential school abuse testimony


Truth and Reconciliation REPORT CARD #TRC


Tansi Nîtôtemtik, 

Today’s post continues our assessment of TRC Call to Action #4, specifically in relation to the following requirements of the national standard for Indigenous child welfare: 

    ii. Require all child-welfare agencies and courts to take the residential school legacy into account in their decision making. 

    iii. Establish, as an important priority, a requirement that placements of Aboriginal children into temporary and permanent care be culturally appropriate. 



Indian Child Welfare Act:[6] The Gold Standard

The United States enacted the Indian Child Welfare Act (CWFA) in 1978, in response to overrepresentation of Indigenous children in the child welfare system. The CFWA is exemplary as it empowers Indigenous communities with inherent jurisdiction to resolve matters involving children in need of care.[7] 

When determining the best course of action for an Indigenous child, the ICWA requires US courts to consider the following:

  1. A genuine desire from the biological parents to place an Indigenous child in care.[8]
  2. Active efforts to keep the family together (e.g. rehabilitative programs) to be unsuccessful before any placement is ordered. [9]
  3. A higher burden of proof to require placement/adoption.[10]
  4. A legislated order for placement to keep the child close to their family and community.[11]

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Elders Can Experience Domestic Violence #ViolenceAwarenessMonth


StrongHearts Native Helpline: 
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Native American Elders

A Native American is usually considered an elder when they are above the age of 60 to 65, although it varies from tribe to tribe.

In our Native communities, we are taught to respect our elders. We honor them at ceremony, community gatherings, and pow wows. Their presence is considered to be an honor. We depend on them for wisdom and guidance gleaned from their years of experience. They are invaluable to us. Yet, they can still be victims of domestic violence.

Abuse can happen to anyone. It is not limited to a specific age, class, religion, gender or sexual orientation. Abuse can happen in relationships where couples are married, living together, dating or have children together. Violent behavior can appear at any time in a relationship, though possessive, controlling and other alarming behavior often reveals itself as the relationship becomes more serious.

Domestic violence happens when an intimate partner uses a repetitive pattern of abuse to maintain power and control over their partner. The abuse can physically harm, intimidate, prevent a person from acting freely, or force them to behave in ways they do not want.

Types of Abuse

What can domestic violence look like in elder relationships? Domestic violence can look similar in elder relationships as it does in their younger counterparts, but some elders may be more vulnerable to the impacts of abuse and less able to get support. 

      Physical abuse includes inflicting physical pain or injury upon the victim like pushing, holding or pinching. It can also include prohibiting one to get medical help, withholding medicine, or not allowing one time to heal after illness or surgery. 

      Emotional abuse includes verbal assaults, threats of abuse, and intimidation. It also includes isolation, where the abusive partner will not let the victim visit with their relatives. Isolation can be particularly harmful to elders as they may already have limited mobility or relationships.   

      Gaslighting is also a form of emotional abuse. This can occur when the abusive partner blames the victim for their behavior in such a way that the victim begins to question their own version of events or reality. In this situation, it can be very difficult for the victim to recognize that abuse is happening. 

      Spiritual and cultural abuse happens when the abusive partners uses hurtful stereotypes to criticize the victim, uses tribal membership against them, won’t allow them to participate in traditions, or restricts them from honoring their beliefs.

      Sexual abuse includes grabbing and hurting the sexual parts of the victim’s body, pressuring the victim for sex and becoming angry or violent when refused sex.

      Financial abuse happens when an abusive partner keeps money, accounts or financial information hidden from the victim. The abusive partner may also give an allowance to the victim or keep the victim’s social security or per capita checks. They may also use gaslighting as a tactic of control here. They may say things like, “I’ve always controlled the money.” or “You aren’t good with money.”; or “You have everything you need, don’t you?”

      Digital abuse happens when the abusive partner takes away phones, iPads, or computers in a bid to control who the victim can contact. 

A Stay Together Era

Elders can be more traditional. They came of age when families stayed together even during abuse. Some elders have endured a lifetime of domestic violence. To understand why elder-survivors of domestic violence stay, consider the following.

      Love: They have a long history of loving their partner and believe the abuse will someday end.

      Family: They want to maintain harmony within the family.

      Normalization: Elders may feel they have lived through the violence their whole life and there is no need or way to change it now. 

      Community: They fear having to leave the community in order to escape the abuse or are embarrassed about what other members of the community would think about the abuse.

      Manipulation and Low Self-Esteem: They blame themselves for the abuse, or feel hopeless. 

      No Money/Resources: They don’t have the resources to leave their situation, or feel a responsibility to financially support their abusive partner.

      Denial/Shame: Denial or shame happens when a survivor is embarrassed and wants to protect themselves, their children and/or families from being associated with the stigma of abuse.

Help is Available

At StrongHearts Native Helpline, we know that Native American elders are humble and it can be difficult for them to ask for help. Native Americans and Alaska Natives experience domestic violence at higher rates than any other ethnic group and that elders still suffer intimate partner violence.

 Domestic violence and dating violence are not Native American traditions, and neither is ever okay. 

StrongHearts Native Helpline is a free, culturally-appropriate, and anonymous helpline for Native Americans and Alaska Natives impacted by domestic violence and dating violence. We acknowledge and support all victims regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation or relationship status. If you or someone you love is experiencing domestic violence, help is available.

Contact StrongHearts at 1-844-7NATIVE or click on the Chat Now icon to connect one-on-one with and advocate daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CT. As a collaborative effort of the National Domestic Violence Hotline (The Hotline) and the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, after-hour callers can connect with The Hotline by choosing option one.

Support them!

What our Nations are up against!

What our Nations are up against!

To Veronica Brown

Veronica, we adult adoptees are thinking of you today and every day. We will be here when you need us. Your journey in the adopted life has begun, nothing can revoke that now, the damage cannot be undone. Be courageous, you have what no adoptee before you has had; a strong group of adult adoptees who know your story, who are behind you and will always be so.

Did you know?

Did you know?

Help in available!

Help in available!
1-844-7NATIVE (click photo)

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Diane Tells His Name

where were you adopted?

where were you adopted?