At age nine, tragedy struck Autumn Adams’ life. Her father passed away and her mother was deemed unfit to care for her, leaving Adams with an uncertain future.
Adams, who is a member of the Yakama Nation, a federally recognized Native tribe, recalls overhearing officers from Child Protective Services discuss the possibility of moving her to a non-Native home if they couldn’t soon find a Native family to place her with. The idea terrified her.
“At that point in my life, I had everything I recognized as home ripped away from me," she tells Teen Vogue. "I had to bury my father. I had to be ripped from my mother's arms. The only thing that was left that gave me that connection was my extended family and culture.”
Adams was eventually placed with family in a multigenerational home that included her maternal aunt and grandmother. Now a law student, Adams credits this upbringing with enabling her to stay close to her culture and achieve success. “I was directly able to learn from my aunt, my cousins, my grandmother, my other aunts and uncles during that time — what it means to have perseverance, what it means to have responsibility and respect, the definition of grit,” she explains. “It's through those lessons that I've broken every negative statistic not only about former foster youth but about Native former foster youth.”
In November, the Supreme Court heard arguments for a case that could forever change the landscape of adoption for Native youth like Adams.