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Friday, January 21, 2011

From my archives...1995 news

• Easter House charged with violation of Indian Child Welfare Act; baby returned to mother


1995

In 1995, the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe of South Dakota filed a petition seeking to invalidate the adoption of a three-month old infant boy. The parents had planned to put their son up for adoption because of financial problems, but then changed their mind after he was born. After returning home from the hospital with her son, the mother signed the consent form and reluctantly gave her child to Easter House after repeated calls from the agency. She changed her mind within hours. The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), a federal law, was passed in 1978 to protect the rights of Native American children, who were being removed illegally from tribes and reservations and being placed with White families. The law says that a Native American mother can't consent to an adoption until 10 days after the birth and that she can revoke her consent anytime before the adoption is final. Under Illinois state law, however, a consent to adoption is irrevocable after 72 hours. The mother had told Easter House that she was an American Indian, but the agency did not follow ICWA procedures and refused to help rescind the adoption.

"They told me I could change my mind," she said. "I felt betrayed." The agency's lawyer said the agency acted legally.

The people who were going to adopt the boy agreed to give him back because they said they did not believe that protracted litigation in Illinois courts would be in the best interest of the child.

Sources: Jeff Flock. "Native American Woman Sues to Revoke Adoption," CNN, Transcript #1084-6. Section News: Domestic. Show: News 10:26 pm et. January 3, 1995.

"In Circuit Court," Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, January 26, 1995.

Andrew Fegelman, "Adoptive Couple Agree to Give Up Infant." Chicago Tribune, Section Metro Northwest, Pg. 4; Zone NW, February 2, 1995.

Lou Ortiz, "Mom Sues to Reverse Son's Adoption; Indian Child Welfare Act Cited." Chicago Sun-Times, Section News; P. 14, Feb 2, 1995.

M.A. Stapleton. "Adoption dispute ended in best interests of child. Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, P. 1, February 1, 1995.

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Indian Country is under attack. Native tribes and people are fighting hard for justice. There is need for legal assistance across Indian Country, and NARF is doing as much as we can. With your help, we have fought for 48 years and we continue to fight.

It is hard to understand the extent of the attacks on Indian Country. We are sending a short series of emails this month with a few examples of attacks that are happening across Indian Country and how we are standing firm for justice.

Today, we look at recent effort to undo laws put in place to protect Native American children and families. All children deserve to be raised by loving families and communities. In the 1970s, Congress realized that state agencies and courts were disproportionately removing American Indian and Alaska Native children from their families. Often these devastating removals were due to an inability or unwillingness to understand Native cultures, where family is defined broadly and raising children is a shared responsibility. To stop these destructive practices, Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

After forty years, ICWA has proven to be largely successful and many states have passed their own ICWAs. This success, however, is now being challenged by large, well-financed opponents who are actively and aggressively seeking to undermine ICWA’s protections for Native children. We are seeing lawsuits across the United States that challenge ICWA’s protections. NARF is working with partners to defend the rights of Native children and families.

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where were you adopted?

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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.