In the book CALLED HOME (Book 2) (see sidebar) - we devote an entire chapter on how to use ICWA to open your adoption records to contact the tribe, and how to use DNA results. You will need legal help. Don't let that stop you.***Some of us are told that records burned - that is usually a lie. The Catholic Charities and others will claim your parent is dead - that often turns out to be a lie. In some families, as many as 10 children were sold and trafficked into adoption, especially if you were a Native mother. Read the book series Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects for examples.REMEMBER - a closed adoption was sealed which meant secret for your lifetime - you were not supposed to know who you are... THIS BLOG IS here to address that.DNA testing is bypassing the stupid old laws.If you have no other choice, do a DNA test and find relatives. Sometimes that is the only solution when laws prevent us having our records (or our parents records.)Important info from NARFCONTACT the Secretary of the Interior:https://www.doi.gov/contact-us
Who may request access to adoption information?
Under 1917, an "Indian individual who has reached the age eighteen and who was the subject of an adoptive placement" may apply to the court that rendered the final decree, while 1951(b) allows the "adopted child over the age of eighteen, the adoptive or foster parents of an Indian child, or an Indian tribe" to request the adoption information.
Sections 1917 and 1951 superficially differ in the Indian adoptee's required age before they can apply or request assistance from a state court or the Secretary of the Interior respectively. Section 1917 requires adoptees "who [have] reached the age of 18," while 1951 requires an adoptee "over the age of eighteen," which can mean nineteen years of age or older. It is likely that there is no intended difference in the age requirements between the two sections and that an Indian adoptee who is eighteen years old or older can request assistance from the state court or Secretary.What if an adopted Indian child does not know the court that entered the final adoption decree?
Section 1951(a) requires state courts to provide information to the Secretary of the Interior concerning Indian adoptions. If an adoptee does not know the court that entered the final adoption decree, he or she can contact the Secretary through the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). BIA offices are listed in this Practical Guide's Resources Section. As the federal agency charged with the responsibility to serve as the central registry, the BIA supposedly maintains the records of adopted Indian children since November of 1978. Although the BIA's registry may be extremely limited, in some instances, it may serve as a starting point for Indian adoptees who do not know the court that entered the final adoption decree. Alternatively, in some cases an adoptee may be successful in obtaining adoption records by contacting the adoption agency directly.
15.5 - What role does the Secretary of the Interior have regarding an Indian adoptees access to his or her adoption records?
Supposedly, under 1951(a) the Secretary of the Interior serves as a central registry for adoption records of Indian children since November 8, 1978. However, the registry in most cases is extremely limited and often times is unhelpful. Although, state courts entering adoption decrees involving Indian children are required to provide to the Secretary of the Interior the Indian child's adoption records, it is routinely overlooked. In any event the registry, in accordance with 1951, should include information that shows:
(1) The name and tribal affiliation of the child;
(2) The names and addresses of the biological parents;
(3) The names and addresses of the adoptive parents; and
(4) The identity of any agency having files or information relating to such adoptive placement.
Should the registry contain pertinent records and upon a request by an adult Indian adoptee, adoptive parent(s) or Indian tribe, the Secretary is required to disclose the information necessary to establish tribal membership. 25 U.S.C. 1951(b). If the biological parent(s) indicate by affidavit to remain anonymous, the Secretary shall insure that the confidentiality of such information is maintained and such information is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. 522 (2000). 25 U.S.C. 1951(a). To accommodate the confidentiality request, the Secretary can then certify the child's parentage or other information necessary to satisfy a tribe's enrollment requirements and establish the Indian adoptee's membership in that tribe. 25 U.S.C. 1951(b).
ALSO: Make your voice heard!
Call or write:
Bureau of Indian Affairs
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20240
Telephone: (202) 208-5116
To request a meeting with the Director, Bureau of Indian Affairs, please use the Meeting Request Form
The adoption of Native American children involves not only state adoption laws, but the federal Indian Child Welfare Act as well. This act was passed in 1978 in response to the number of children who were being placed for adoption or foster care in non-Native American families. Agencies with the authority to place Native American children for adoption must first seek placement within the child's extended family; then within the tribe; then within another Native American tribe; and then, if necessary, with a non-Native American family. While adoption laws seal records that provide identifying information such as names, parties involved in a Native American adoption have an additional resource in the tribe in the search for adoption information.
Gather information you have. While adoption documents given to adoptive parents and birth parents remove identifying information such as names and addresses, they do provide information and clues, such as date of placement and adoption history. You will need information such as birth dates and placement and adoption finalization dates to find the right records. It also helps to know which tribe or tribes were notified about the adoption.
Contact the lawyer or adoption agency involved in the adoption. In most states, if any of the parties involved in the adoption consented to give out identifying information at the time of the placement, the lawyer and agency will be able to supply the last known information.
Contact the tribal court that was notified of the adoption. The Indian Child Welfare Act requires tribe approval of the adoptive placement and requires that the tribe be provided copies of the adoption finalization for its records. Tell the tribal court what you are seeking and the reason for requesting the documents. Unless the reason for obtaining the information is a medical emergency, the court may deny your request or supply only non-identifying information.
File a petition in the state court where the adoption occurred. While the Indian Child Welfare Act governs how Native American children can be placed for adoption, the adoptions themselves are executed in accordance with state laws. Much like the tribal court, records with identifying information will not be released without consent of the other party or if there is a medical reason.
- How to Open Closed Adoption Records for Native American Children (updated 2020)
- NEW! Help for First Nations Adoptees (Canada)
- LOST CHILDREN BOOK SERIES
- Split Feathers Study
- About Trace
- Karen Vigneault - Helping Native Adoptees Search
- The reunification of First Nations adoptees (2016)
- You're Breaking Up: Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl #ICWA
- FAQ ICWA 2016
- Indian Child Welfare Act organizations
- About the Indian Adoption Projects
- How to Search (adoptees)
- Soaring Angels (UPDATE 2020)
- THE PLACEMENT OF AMERICAN INDIAN CHILDREN - THE NEED FOR CHANGE (1974)
- NEW: Study by Jeannine Carriere (First Nations) (2007)
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- Bibliography (updated)
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- #MMIWG MAY 2019
- Survivor Not Victim (my interview with Von)
- Adoption History
- Native American News Outlets
- First Nations Repatriation Institute
- Adoptee Citizen Act of 2019
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- FREE REGISTRY (sign up at ISRR)
- Genealogy\Indian Affairs 2020
How to Use this Blog
How to Open Closed Adoption Records for Native American Children (updated 2020)
Imagine a life filled with blanks. Most #Adoptees live that experience. Adoptees United Inc. works to eliminate the inequality of denying adult adoptees their own truths and identities. Support that work by purchasing a pack of “Intentionally Blank” cards. https://t.co/Ar1bgecYB5— Adoptees United (@AdopteesUnited) March 4, 2020
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.
click to listen
Listening to The Other Side of Adoption with Trace A DeMeyer by Fire Talk Production https://t.co/6SGuMcotmn— TraceLHentz (@StonePony33) January 17, 2019