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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Justice Department Supports Native Americans In Child Welfare Case : NPR

Justice Department Supports Native Americans In Child Welfare Case : NPR

The Justice Department has weighed in on a class-action lawsuit inSouth Dakota pitting Native American tribes against state officials, and come down resoundingly in support of tribes.

It's the first time the department has intervened in a federal district court case involving the Indian Child Welfare Act, a law meant to keep Native American families together. The department filed an amicus brief in the case concluding that the state is violating the rights of Native American parents.

In the suit, tribes claim the state is failing to abide by the 36-year-old federal law, removing hundreds of Indian children from their families in court hearings where parents are rarely allowed to speak, and that often last less than 60 seconds.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Momentum builds for gathering of aboriginal adoptees

Gathering for people who were adopted or lived in foster care as children

CBC News Posted: Aug 21, 2014
Lesley Parlane
Lesley Parlane, one of the organizers of an upcoming gathering for aboriginal adoptees was in Regina to talk about the event. (CBC)

An upcoming gathering of aboriginal people who were adopted or lived in foster care as children is gathering momentum as organizers visited Regina to talk about their plans.
The event, set for Ottawa, is called the Indigenous Adoptee Gathering 2014 and takes place Sept. 20 to 21.
One of the organizers of the event is Lesley Parlane, who was adopted as a small child.
Parlane says the idea for the gathering arose when she and other friends, who were also adopted, discovered they had many things in common because of that background and felt that sharing their experiences and providing support could be valuable.
She said she wishes such a community was available to her, as she was growing up.
"It would have been good to get together with people like me," Parlane said. "My experience wasn't bad but it wasn't good either, but everybody had a different experience but where do you go with that?"
The gathering will offer a variety of healing circles, workshops, and talks by people who have also been adopted.
Parlane explained that she learned much about her own history - and family connections - when, as an 18-year-old applying to get her Status Indian documents, she was contacted by a Saskatchewan First Nation and told they had various records relating to her adoption and news that she had a number of sisters who had been looking to find her.
It was a lot of information to process all at once, Parlane said and it took several years for her to feel comfortable delving into her family history. Now she says, she has been visiting family on the Standing Buffalo First Nation on a regular basis for the past three years.
She is hoping the upcoming gathering will help others who may be facing similar situations.
The Ottawa event has enough room for 80 participants and is just over half full.

More information about the event is available on a Facebook page and online, through this link.

Shocking admission by former DOCs worker

LINK: Shocking admission by former DOCs worker | Apology Alliance Australia

What constitutes “good”. When I worked at the Dept of Community Services I came across a lot of teen adoptees who were very damaged because of the adopted parents that had been chosen for them.
Honestly you would not have given them the worst kind of pet let alone a
child. (name withheld).

Brother Alex MacDonald worked with street kids in Melbourne in the
1980s.  He made the astounding comment published in a news article that
out of 149 drug related suicides he attended – 147 were adoptees.
click link above

Aussie adoptee statement
NOTE: There is no way for me to know how many Native American adoptees committed suicide but from what I am told, it's a staggering amount, which is why we don't have statistics... Lara/Trace

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Called Home gifted in California

Tribal STAR News

Tribal STAR logo

Blessing of ICWA Court in Los Angeles
On the morning of July 25, 2014 the courtroom in which Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) cases are heard was blessed. The blessing of the court was organized by members of the stakeholders committee that has been meeting with the Honorable Amy Pellman, the judge who presides in that court. The stakeholders committee has been meeting for nine months to develop collaborative working relationships that will further the work of the court in insuring that the requirements of ICWA are implemented. The blessing was coordinated by Roberta Javier who works in the Indian Unit for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services. The blessing was given by Julia Bognay, a member of the Tongva Tribe of Los Angeles. Gifts were presented to the court including a Cradleboard, a Dream Catcher gourd and a book, “Called Home” by Trace A. DeMeyer, relating the stories of Native American Adoptees. The blessing of the court is an annual event and insures that the Spirit of ICWA is present in the court when cases are being heard. 

Judge Amy with Leeland
Judge Amy Pellman, Los Angeles ICWA Court and Leland Morrill, Navajo Adoptee

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Margaret Jacobs: A Generation Removed #ICWA #BABYVERONICA

Read an Excerpt (pdf)

May 5, 2015: watch interview with Author on Cspan

On June 25, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case Adoptive Couple vs. Baby Girl, which pitted adoptive parents Matt and Melanie Capobianco against baby Veronica’s biological father, Dusten Brown, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Veronica’s biological mother had relinquished her for adoption to the Capobiancos without Brown’s consent. Although Brown regained custody of his daughter using the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Capobiancos, rejecting the purpose of the ICWA and ignoring the long history of removing Indigenous children from their families.
In A Generation Removed, a powerful blend of history and family stories, award-winning historian Margaret D. Jacobs examines how government authorities in the post–World War II era removed thousands of American Indian children from their families and placed them in non-Indian foster or adoptive families. By the late 1960s an estimated 25 to 35 percent of Indian children had been separated from their families.
Jacobs also reveals the global dimensions of the phenomenon: These practices undermined Indigenous families and their communities in Canada and Australia as well. Jacobs recounts both the trauma and resilience of Indigenous families as they struggled to reclaim the care of their children, leading to the ICWA in the United States and to national investigations, landmark apologies, and redress in Australia and Canada. 

Margaret D. Jacobs, Chancellor’s Professor of History at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, is the author of the Bancroft Prize–winning White Mother to a Dark Race: Settler Colonialism, Maternalism, and the Removal of Indigenous Children in the American West and Australia, 1880–1940 (Nebraska, 2009) and Engendered Encounters: Feminism and Pueblo Cultures, 1879–1934 (Nebraska, 1999).

"[A Generation Removed is] a solid account that calls for "a full historical reckoning" of this devastating chapter in the treatment of Native Americans."—Kirkus

“Using compelling stories and weighty evidence, Jacobs has uncovered a modern and ongoing story of child-stealing in the United States. She lays out the shocking history of Native American adoption and the good liberal logic that enabled it in a page-turner of a book.”—Anne F. Hyde, Bancroft Prize–winning author of Empires, Nations, and Families: A History of the North American West, 1800–1860

“Jacobs brings deep scholarship to a topic of searing national and transnational importance. In a respectful, clear voice, she guides the reader on a journey into the most intimate corridors of settler colonialism. This is a complex and often heart-wrenching history that provides salutary lessons for the future.”—Ann McGrath, director of the Australian Centre for Indigenous History at Australian National University and coauthor of How to Write History That People Want to Read

“Margaret Jacobs once again demonstrates her genius for writing history that combines penetrating analysis with heart-wrenching stories. Beautifully written, deeply researched, this important and amazing book examines a subject largely unknown to the public at large but all too familiar to Indigenous peoples who have suffered the pain and indignity of child removal.”—David Wallace Adams, author of Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience, 1875–1928

A Generation Removed will find a large and interested readership among researchers, university students (of all levels), as well as the broader community of people involved in adoption. This book is also clearly written and is sophisticated without being overly specialized or jargon-ridden. . . . An admirable book, compelling to read despite the tragic stories it recounts.”—Karen Dubinsky, author of Babies without Borders: Adoption and Migration across the Americas 

I will be posting a review here as soon as I finish it! Amazon has lots of good copies (new and used)...We have been waiting for this book, believe me - this brilliant academic has found the proof of genocide via adoption, Lyslo's work and so much more............ Trace/Lara

California Appeals Court Upholds ICWA in Choctaw Foster Case -

 CLICK: California Appeals Court Upholds ICWA in Choctaw Foster Case -

Last Friday, the Second District Court of Appeals in California unanimously ruled against a non-Native foster couple seeking to adopt the Choctaw child in their care. The three-judge panel rejected their argument that they have the same constitutional rights and standing as biological parents, and ruled that the application of the “existing Indian family exception” did not apply in the case of Children and Family Services v. J.E., et al.

RELATED: Broken: Choctaw Father in California Thwarted in Custody Battle With Foster Couple

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Romanticizing Adoption and Reunion: The Modern Day Fairy Tale that Actually Isn't

LINK: Lost Daughters: Romanticizing Adoption and Reunion: The Modern Day Fairy Tale that Actually Isn't

People watch our stories and tell us, You are so lucky you’re adopted...You are so blessed to be reunited...You get the best of both worlds...You have a beautiful story...You must feel so loved...You can be whole now...You have found peace...

Stop. Please. Just stop.

Stop telling us how we are supposed to feel. Stop twisting our stories to be pleasing to you. Stop euphemizing our very real pain, our irretrievable losses, our irreconcilable dissonance.

Our stories are not a Hallmark card. Our stories are not fairy tales. Our very real, raw lives are not for you to box up in a nice, clean package.

After reunion, life gets all the more complicated. Reunion is only the beginning. It is not the end. Challenges we never anticipated overtake us. Emotions we never knew we could feel engulf us. Confusion that we thought had been tamed begins to flail and kick so hard it knocks us

Even in the most “ideal” of circumstances, reunion precipitates complex pain and new grief. It surfaces emotions that can swallow you up until you see nothing but darkness.

Reunion does not bring closure.
Our stories are our lives. 

And they belong--not to you to judge and to scrutinize--but they belong to us. 
And to us alone.

(link is at top of post) please share this! ...Trace

Monday, August 18, 2014

GOOD NEWS: Judge accepts feds' comments on Indian Child Welfare case

RAPID CITY - SOUTH DAKOTA -- In what is being called a rare move, the Department of Justice last week threw its support behind two South Dakota tribes and two Native American mothers that have accused state officials of violating the Indian Child Welfare Act by taking custody of their children for 60 days after only a brief hearing.

Chief United States District Judge Jeffrey Viken on Friday granted the Department of Justice's motion to comment as a friend of the court in the lawsuit filed in 2013. In doing so, Viken acknowledged the department's amicus brief outlining its interpretation of the rights Native American parents have under the Indian Child Welfare Act when their children are removed from their homes.

The South Dakota Department of Social Services often is called to take custody of children when law-enforcement officers handle a domestic situation, during a criminal investigation or when a warrant is served. Under state law, a custody hearing is required within 48 hours of a child's removal from a home. Such hearings are referred to as "48-hour hearings."

Viken's decision is good news, according to Rapid City attorney Dana Hanna, who, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, represents the Oglala Sioux and Rosebud Sioux tribes and mothers Madonna Pappen and Lisa Young in the 2013 lawsuit. The suit was filed on behalf of all Native American parents whose children were taken through the actions of the Department of Social Services, Pennington County State's Attorney's Office and the Seventh Circuit Court.

"The Indian plaintiffs in this case and their attorneys are delighted that the Department of Justice has supported virtually all our legal arguments that we have raised in our lawsuit against the state officials," Hanna said in an interview on Friday.

"We are confident that the brief filed by the Department of Justice will be very helpful to the district court in arriving at a just decision in this case."

The DOJ's participation in the case is a "very rare and unprecedented event," Hanna said.

The action shows the importance of the case, according to ACLU attorney Stephen Pevar.
"This may be the first time since ICWA was passed in 1978 that DOJ entered into an ICWA case at the district court level," Pevar said in a news release Friday.

The National Indian Child Welfare Association, headquartered in Portland, Ore., also welcomes the DOJ's involvement in the South Dakota case.

"It is our hope that this is just the first of many actions the United States will take to better ensure Native children and families are treated fairly under the law and that non-compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act is no longer tolerated," Executive Director Terry Cross said Thursday in a statement. "As always, NICWA stands in support of South Dakota's Indian families, tribes and children. With today's development, we are one step closer to achieving justice for them."
South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley's office represents the judiciary in this case. On Friday, his office said that he cannot comment on ongoing litigation.

The lawsuit accuses Seventh Circuit Court judges of conducting perfunctory 48-hour hearings and placing children in foster care when the Department of Social Services takes temporary custody of Native American children. The lawsuit criticizes the speed of the hearings and the treatment given parents during the hearings.

In the "Conclusion" section of its brief, the Department of Justice wrote: "ICWA imposes a specific obligation on state officials, including state courts and departments of social services, to actively investigate and oversee emergency removals of Indian children to 'insure' that the removal ends as soon as possible, and that Indian children are 'expeditiously' returned to their parents or their tribe, or that the state commences a child custody proceeding subject to all of ICWA's protections." That obligation, the brief continues, "applies to initial hearings such as the 48-hour hearings at issue here."
In July, the attorneys filed motions asking the federal court to hold as a matter of law that certain practices used in Pennington County's initial 48-hour custody hearings involving Native American families violate federal law.

Many such hearings last less than two minutes, according to Hanna.

A review of hearing transcripts filed in the case shows parents are given no meaningful opportunity to speak or questions the judges, Hanna said.

"They are expressly told by the judges that they are not allowed to give testimony in the 48-hour hearing," Hanna said in an email Friday.

The federal brief cites the plaintiffs' assertion that "the 48-hour hearings are, almost without exception, cursory affairs, and that no testimony or evidence is permitted." The brief added that under federal law, "(S)tate officials must conduct an inquiry into whether the emergency removal is still necessary to prevent imminent harm to the child, and must accept and/or present evidence on this issue, either at the 48-hour hearing or at another hearing soon thereafter."

Such a hearing, the federal brief said, "should include an opportunity to present witnesses and evidence on the parents' behalf."

At about 99 percent of the hearings, the court grants the state's petition for temporary custody, Hanna said.

Although, Congress recognized a need for states to be able to take emergency action to protect Native American children, it also imposes strict limitations on that emergency authority, according to the brief.

An emergency removal or placement should be terminated as soon as possible by either returning children to a parent, custodian or tribe or initiate a child custody proceeding within ICWA guidelines, according to the Department of Justice.

The brief was submitted by U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson, Acting Assistant Attorney Generals Molly J. Moran, Sam Hirsch and other U.S. Department of Justice attorneys.

With this lawsuit, the Native American tribes and parents are trying to tell state officials that temporary custody hearings do not meet constitutional standards and violate ICWA, Hanna said.
"And now," Hanna said, "the Department of Justice has said that too."

Parents' rights, not money drive ACLU lawsuit

Every week, Native American families are torn apart in Rapid City in violation of their constitutional rights, attorneys representing two Sout… Read more

Tribes prepared to battle Department of Social Services' practices

With the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Oglala and Rosebud Sioux tribes will file a federal class action today in Rapid Ci… Read more

Native American child custody lawsuit advances

A federal judge has decided that Native American families deserve a chance to prove that South Dakota officials routinely ignore their rights … Read more

Circuit judges accused of ignoring federal judge's order in suit over Native children custody hearings


BABY Alexandria: The new Baby Veronica?


ICWA Placement Preference Decision Out of California Involving Choctaw Tribe


This is a re-occurring and incredibly frustrating ICWA fact pattern – if the ICWA compliant placement is out of state, or far away from the parents, and the goal is reunification, it makes sense for the tribe and state to allow for a non-compliant ICWA placement near the parents. What happens, however, when reunification fails? As in this case, a court is often unwilling to remove the child from the home she has been in for anywhere from one to three years. Honest, actual, concurrent permanency planning could help with this, but while that is a best practice, it does not seem to be happening with any regularity at the state (California).
Concluding that the ICWA’s adoptive placement preferences do apply to this case, we then review the trial court’s order finding that the P.s failed to produce clear and convincing evidence of good cause to depart from those placement preferences. We determine that the court applied the correct burden of proof by requiring the P.s to prove by clear and convincing evidence that there was good cause to deviate from section 1915’s placement preferences. However, the court erroneously required the P.s to prove a certainty that Alexandria would suffer harm if moved, and failed to consider Alexandria’s best interests or her bond with the P.s in determining good cause.
We recognize that a final decision regarding Alexandria’s adoptive placement will be further delayed as a result of our determination of the merits of this appeal. That delay is warranted by the need to insure that the correct legal standard is utilized in deciding whether good cause has been shown that it is in the best interest of Alexandria to depart from the ICWA’s placement preferences.
As also often happens, the parties start arguing about the very constitutionality of ICWA, making this case a “not as bad as it could have been” case – the court didn’t find ICWA is unconstitutional, nor does Adoptive Couple apply (as the de facto parents argued) to this fact pattern. And yet, the trial court decision placing the child with her extended family is still overturned based on the child’s best interest standard. Getting courts to acknowledge that the best interests of a child ought to include the child’s whole life, not just the one transition in front of the court at that moment, is both vital and seemingly impossible.

(Happy to post redacted briefs if we receive any)

Speaking of ICWA placement preferences, Here are the reports submitted to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination by the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, the International Indian Treaty Council, and the National Indian Child Welfare Association:
Alternative Report A: Indigenous Children and the Legacy and Current Impacts of the Boarding School Policies in the United States and the Lack of Redress, Restitution and Restoration by the United States to Address these Impacts or to Acknowledge Responsibility for Them
Alternative Report B: The Continued Removal of Indigenous Children from Their Families and Communities and its Impact on The Right to Culture


Friday, August 15, 2014

Intergenerational Trauma and Healing – 3 Videos

What is talked about in these three videos has many implications for all sorts of trauma and for both individuals and oppressed populations in general all over the world. When we start understanding people’s pain and suffering from this perspective compassion and empathy for all sorts of things we might not have understood becomes possible. Compassion and empathy can heal us all.

Dr. Solanto discusses what trauma is, how the experiences of colonization “qualify” as trauma, how trauma might be transmitted across the generations, crime and other social problems as understandable responses to trauma and implications for healing
individuals, families and communities. Go here: Intergenerational Trauma and Healing – Beyond Meds

Thursday, August 14, 2014

GUEST POST: Reactive Attachment Disorder by Levi Eagle Feather

Levi Eagle Feather (Lakota)

"...We're the evidence of the crime. They can't deal with the reality of who we are because then they have to deal with the reality of what they have done. If they deal with the reality of who we are, they have to deal with the reality of who they aren't." - John Trudell

This is the first in a series about Reactive Attachment Disorder 
By Levi EagleFeather

Reactive attachment disorder, what is it? Well... mine, is a sub-conscious and conscious reaction to the dark art [1] that has been practiced against my people, the Lakota, for the past two hundred years or more. The adoption experience is the specific part of that art which hit me.
Overall, everything has worked out quite well for it. In harmony with a multitude of other programs, projects, acts and policies our lives collectively have been totally altered and we now have to live with the confusion of that change. Needless to say, the affects of it all have been quite traumatic for a lot of people.
Many times, emotionally, mentally and spiritually we become lost and tired within the hubbub of it all. What else can we do but feel lost. As far as adoption goes the whole basic, being separated from the herd to which you belong thingy. Something which we all have experienced is pretty much the icing on the cake of it all. It not only disrupted our natural experience of familial roots and belonging which is the core of our birthright, but it screwed with everyone else's experience as well. It removed all of us at the same time from that first belonging which showed us and told us to whom and how it is that we belong. It's been very hard for me to square myself with that even to this day!
While the boarding school process and the relocation process do basically the same thing that the adoption process does as far as removing one from the herd. The adoption process intentionally is a more permanent barrier between you and your roots. When it is all said and done the adoption process literally redirects completely the whole flow of your life and for everyone involved. Redirected it from the original stream that was familiar and which flowed naturally to one that is not only unfamiliar, but to which your original flow must now undergo a lot of shaping and altering. People sense and understand this is happening while it is happening. We sense it and feel it emotionally and we develop memories of it.

The Mayo clinic has attempted to define Reactive Attachment Disorder. Under diseases and conditions it says that: "Reactive attachment disorder is a rare but serious condition in which an infant or young child doesn't establish healthy attachments with parents or caregivers. Reactive attachment disorder may develop if the child's basic needs for comfort, affection and nurturing aren't met and loving, caring, stable attachments with others are not established. " [2]

I think there are probably a lot of people like myself. That sub-consciously and even consciously realized as it was happening that they weren't experiencing emotional stability. Where ever it was that they got left. 

Knowing that belonging isn't there is easy to understand. It also is easy to understand why someone might be skeptical about wanting to have anything to do with who and what they are being redirected to. And it doesn't have anything to do with any wow factor or how cool something might be either. 

Naturally, situations like this will affect ones behavior. The Mayo clinic says that some of the signs and symptoms of someone experiencing a RAD condition may include:      
·       Withdrawal, fear, sadness or irritability that is not readily explained
·       Sad and listless appearance
·       Not seeking comfort or showing no response when comfort is given
·       Failure to smile
·       Watching others closely but not engaging in social interaction
·       Failing to ask for support or assistance
·       Failure to reach out when picked up
·       No interest in playing peekaboo or other interactive games [3]   

I was four when this all began for me. Since that time not much in my life has been acceptable to me. In a "feeling about it" kind of way. Something is always missing or just not quite right!
 The Mayo says that:

         To feel safe and develop trust, infants and young children need a stable, caring environment. Their basic emotional and physical needs must be consistently met. For instance, when a baby cries, his or her need for a meal or a diaper change must be met with a shared emotional exchange that may include eye contact, smiling and caressing.
A child whose needs are ignored or met with a lack of emotional response from caregivers does not come to expect care or comfort or form a stable attachment to caregivers.[4]

In my situation, whatever was to pass for loving and caring after I was removed from my family came from something else entirely different. Both, the attempts at affection and caring, were like gifts that were to be conditionally given based on performance, mine. Their conditions were based on and guided by the authoritarian principals of their church mostly and were backed up by what little understanding they had of my history along with what little they had of their own. This instead of any feeling that I belonged, or was truly wanted. And I knew this and lived with it every second of the eleven plus years I was there. People say that actions speak louder than words. Most of the time this is true, in this situation, my situation, it was.
Naturally, I reacted! From the original crying to whatever I brought with me that was me. Emotional, mental and or physical from that day forward was not acceptable and had to be shaped and molded. It goes from the first haircut to change the wild Indian, and on and on. There was a lot of punitive discipline along the way and not just corporal punishment but the good old fashioned psychological stuff.
As I grew older the corporal punishment thing in fact became sort of like part of a sick game we had to play. It physically hurt sure, at first. But as I grew older it seemed to hurt less and the fear I had of it morphed into something weird for me. It turned into more of "a bring it and fuck you" kind of thing. I remember I was around ten or eleven. Somewhere in there. And I was tied to the telephone pole in our yard with my pants around my ankles. My siblings all lined up in one of the flower beds against the house watching the old man beat me with a bullwhip. I don't remember clearly what it was all about or why I was there. Whether I deserved it or not. What I do remember was looking back over my shoulder and telling him "Fuck you, someday your going to get yours!" I'm sure that that beating hurt physically. It had to have. But what hurt me more hurt me inside. The embarrassment of being in front of my siblings probably the most.
So in my mind it was the psychological stuff which screwed with my wanting to belong the most. The blaming, shaming and shunning would work in time. Not like it was intended maybe, but it worked. It told me that I was unacceptable and that life for me and everything in it was unacceptable as well.  
In fairness, I'm sure that I was a fistful right from the beginning. I was a kid! What did I know about life and living. That doesn't account for what happened to me or how it happened, or make it right! In digging through and unraveling the negative effects all of this has had on me mentally and learning to understand and grow out of the emotional instability it instilled in me is part of that being right. I couldn't dream to wish this kind of right on even the best of my enemies! So throughout my experience I never got to any place in it where I felt comfortable enough inside to trust emotionally. Let alone want to belong! My belonging had ceased for all intents and purposes when I was taken and until my children were born I was alone even in a crowd. 

[Levi is a contributor to the new anthology CALLED HOME. His essay The Holocaust Self is one of the most profound in the book! ...Trace/Lara]

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

How much I changed (Part 8) (final installment) #Adoption

10 years already? How has adoption perception changed?

By Lara/Trace Hentz (DeMeyer) (Part 8)

If you had asked me in 2004 what I had planned for myself, I would have not said “writing” about adoption and human trafficking or blogging. I had just left my editor’s job at the Pequot Times in Connecticut in August and by September I was married, my second time. How life changed so dramatically for me is documented in my memoir in much greater detail.

It doesn’t seem possible 10 years zoomed by so fast – it’s like a time tornado hit. Time sped up to warp speed and still has me in its grip!

I know many bloggers on adoption (many good friends to me) had hoped we’d made a strong and lasting impact by now. I had that dream myself.  I am not sure we can actually gauge or measure how world views of adoption have changed. (If books on Amazon are an indication, adoptee memoirs are now climbing the ranks over all the propaganda books about how to adopt a baby.)  If the statistics on adoption are any indication, the number of babies adopted by Americans are dropping each and every year. There is definitely a demand for infants (primarily because of infertility) but there is still a short supply of newborn flesh to adopt.  (I do believe the adoption traffickers are constantly reinventing new ways to grab a fresh supply of infants. Think of what new poor countries or communities they will invade as the demand increases!! Read THIS)

What hasn’t changed fast enough for me are adoption laws, sealed adoption files or the old views of promised secrecy and confidentiality for first mothers. If you gave birth, wouldn’t you want to know what happened to your own baby? If you are an adoptee, don’t you want to know what happened to your mother (and father)?  Haven’t we moved past shaming women for unwed pregnancies? Yes, but not enough, apparently.  Lawmakers are still being wined and dined by adoption agency lobbyists so I don’t expect to see much change in the laws – but I hope I am wrong.

What I’d hoped would change faster is the perception of adoption, that it’s not as great for adoptees as people were made to think and believe.  As much as I’ve read in these past 10 years, blogs and books changed me beyond recognition!  Many times I emailed legislators (like in New Jersey and Illinois) and offered my memoir (as a free ebook) hoping they would see the light and change existing adoption laws. Maybe it helped?

Open Adoption - when adoption is necessary – is also an indication that times are changing! But we have a long way to go…This is a quote I saved about open adoption:
…ignored by the adoption agencies is the reality of “open adoption.” Only 22 of fifty states in America recognize open adoption agreements, but failure of the adoptive parents to comply with the agreement is not legally enforceable by the surrendering mother.
There are many excellent writers making profound statements too.
A quote by adoptee-author-blogger Elle Cuardaigh:  And adoption certainly is “worked.” When supply of newborns decreased in the 1970s, the adoption industry had to put a new spin on relinquishment  to stay in business. Since women could not be so easily shamed by single motherhood, they changed tactics. Potential suppliers (pregnant women) are now encouraged to “make an adoption plan.” She reads the “Dear Birthmother” letters and interviews hopeful adoptive parents. She is provided with medical care and possibly even housing.  She is promised this is her choice, and that she can have ongoing contact with her child in an open adoption. It would seem she has all the power, but she is being systematically conditioned to accept her role, her place. She doesn’t want to hurt the baby’s “real parents,” feels indebted to them, emotionally invested. She is soon convinced they are better than she is. She becomes “their birthmother.” It almost guarantees relinquishment. 


READ Elle’s blog and new book THE TANGLED RED THREAD.  Or visit:

READ LAURA DENNIS and the guest post: Welcome to the Adoptionland Carnival, Next Stop: The End.

Read any and all posts at THE LIFE OF VON. (We lost Von in 2020)

Such powerful WRITING!

If you want insight into The St. John’s/Montclair University Adoption Initiative conference from attendee Jae Ran Kim, an adoptee/social worker who I admire greatly, read this.  “Adoptive parent scholars and scholars without any connection to adoption sometimes just miss asking certain questions that adoptee scholars ask,” she wrote on her blog Harlow’s Monkey. (Check out the books too while you are at Harlow’s Monkey!)

The number of excellent powerful blogs and books by adoptees and first parents (and some APs) has exploded in the past 10 years and for that I am so very grateful! Writing three books about the Indian Adoption Projects and Programs and that history (and exploring my own journey) and contributing to new books like ADOPTIONLAND certainly changed me.

I am happily shocked my blog AMERICAN INDIAN ADOPTEES reached over 240,000 hits (in 2014)! If that is any indication, the times really are a changin’.  That blog came about when my memoir One Small Sacrifice was about to be published in 2009 and experts claim if you have a book, you have to have a blog. Well it worked!
I never would have guessed my life would move in the direction it did but I see that there was much more I needed to write about my life and experience.  I let Great Spirit use me and this was the path.
I want to thank those brave bloggers and hundreds of adoptees who have inspired me so much over past 10 years. Keep it coming!

There is a FACEBOOK PAGE by Carol Schaefer that lists many books about adoption:

So what will the next 10 years be like? I don’t have a clue.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Epigenetics: Scientific Evidence of Intergenerational Trauma

By Ruth Hopkins  Originally published November 26, 2011
Shortly after his second birthday, my son stopped talking. The onset of symptoms was just that abrupt. After nearly two years of visits to doctors and specialists, he was finally diagnosed with atypical autism.
Autism encompasses a spectrum of psychological disorders in which the use of language, reaction to stimuli, interpretation of the outside world, and the establishment of social relationships are difficult and unusual. One in 110 children have autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and males are more likely to have it than females.
Autism is a complex disease with no single known cause. The range of disorders that autism comprises is such that no two children who’ve been diagnosed with autism are the same. Autism arises from a mixture of genetic and environmental factors, which as of yet, have not been clearly delineated.
Epigenetics, a relatively new field in science, could help define the causes of Autism and offer up new modes of treatment for the disorder, as well as other diseases like cancer, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. Epigenetics is the study of gene expression governed by the epigenome, the cellular material that sits on top of our genetic code. The epigenome does not change the genetic code inscribed in our DNA; rather, it activates or silences genes through the mobilization of molecules called methyl groups. These chemical changes are triggered by our environment. Toxins, pollutants, changes in diet, deficiencies in prenatal nutrition, and exposure to stressors alters the way our genes are expressed through the epigenome. Furthermore, epigenetics has proven that these changes in gene expression are passed down to our offspring, for at least one generation. Epigenetics renders the argument of nature vs. nuture moot because it establishes that the two are are inextricably intertwined. In regards to human development, one is as important as the other.
We know that negative behaviors like smoking cigarettes, poor diet, or drinking access amounts of alcohol shortens our lifespan, but now epigenetics is confirming that these behaviors can predispose our children, and even our grandchildren, to similar diseases and decrease their longevity too.
Research in epigenetics reveals that both paternal and maternal toxic environmental exposures play a role in the development of disease in their offspring and future generations. Parental exposure to the popular herbicide Roundup has been linked to birth defects in their offspring. Vietnam veterans who were exposed to the herbicide agent orange, like my father was, pass on an increased risk for spina bifida and other diseases to their children. The prenatal nutrition of mothers has been shown to have an impact on an offspring’s risk of diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. A study on the eating habits of multiple generations of families in Sweden revealed that grandfathers who went from a normal diet to regularly overeating had grandsons who died an average of six years earlier than the grandsons of those who didn’t. The bottom line is this: your grandparents’ and parents’ behaviors, and any toxins or trauma they were exposed to, affects your health directly. Likewise, your behaviors and any toxins or trauma you’re exposed to could affect the health of your children and grandchildren.
Epigenetics may provide hard scientific evidence of intergenerational trauma among American Indians and link it directly to diseases that currently afflict us, like cancer and diabetes. The term “intergenerational trauma” has been used to describe the cumulative effects of trauma experienced by a group or individual that radiates across generations. For natives, intergenerational trauma has presented itself in the form of genocide, disease, poverty, forced assimilation via removal of children from their families to boarding schools, the seizure and environmental destruction of homelands, and other routes of European colonization. The effects of intergenerational trauma include substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and a variety of other emotional problems. Emotional stress has also shown to effect gene expression via the epigenome. Studies show that the withholding of affection by a mother elicits brain changes in her infant that impairs their response to stress as an adult.
Epigenetics offers remarkable potential for the prevention of disease among American Indians as well. We can use epigenetic inheritance to restore the action of our genetic code from one generation to the next. Once environmental stressors are removed and behavior is corrected, our DNA will revert to its original programming. We could cure diabetes through behavioral changes that allow our epigenome to operate correctly. The elimination of toxins and pollutants could greatly reduce the incidence of cancer and birth defects. Such modification of environmental exposures and behaviors will restore and even improve the overall health and capacity of our genetic line.
As for my son, further research in epigenetics may soon decipher the specific mixture of genetics and environmental exposures that lead to Autism Spectrum Disorders. Along with other scientific discoveries, we are hopeful that such studies will develop treatment that will lessen the severity of the symptoms that make his life difficult. Until that time, we’ll continue to love and nurture our son, and thank the Creator for entrusting us with such a miraculous, artistically talented child, whose brave struggle to learn how to express emotions like anger and love inspires everyone around him.
Ruth Hopkins (Sisseton-Wahpeton/Mdewakanton/Hunkpapa) is a writer, a pro-bono tribal attorney, a science professor, and a columnist for the Indian Country Today Media Network. She can be reached at

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Monday, August 11, 2014

How much I changed (Part 7) Scared Silent, Four Traumas, PTSD

Family Photo
By Trace L Hentz (DeMeyer)

(Part 7)

I have met quite a few adoptees who can’t talk about being adopted. Why? They can’t put feelings into words. They didn’t talk about it as a kid and they never learned how to talk about it as an adult.

They might be as confused as I was when I was a child hearing that I was adopted - this was before first grade. What did “adopted” mean? Somehow I got it -  these were not my parents, someone else was. But who? And why?

I got used to hearing we “adopted” Trace.

They'd explained I had a different mother and father. I don’t think I took the news well at all. I sat with it a long time. All I could imagine was “bad.” Nothing  good. Something bad happened or else I wouldn’t be there. Later I was very pissy and unhappy about it. I don’t remember exactly how I acted but I do remember my a-mom Edie would tell me I didn’t like her. I never recall saying to her “I want to go home and leave here” but I would have acted out my hurt and confusion, because I had no words for what I was feeling!  She took it that I didn’t like her. (Which was the groundwork for guilt which I did feel...)

Now that we have the internet and many new ways to find useful information, I read adoptees are more traumatized than a prisoner of war. That’s right. It’s called PTSD: post-traumatic stress disorder. A prisoner of war may escape or be released, but an adoptee may suffer their entire life.

(The following is taken from my memoir ONE SMALL SACRIFICE)

I believe there are four distinct traumas in being an adoptee. They are: 1) in utero, when you feel what is happening to you or sense what is coming; 2) when you are delivered, abandoned, and handed to strangers; 3) later when you are told you are adopted and realize fully what it means; and 4) when you realize you are different, from a different culture or country, and you can’t contact your people, or know them, or have the information you need to find them.

It took me years to get this. (The adrenals do go into over-drive, the fight-or-flight syndrome.)

Some adoptees are scared silent - they are not able to communicate any emotions they feel. This is the adoption fog.  

Then some adoptees are afraid to meet their birthparents -  afraid to know why they were given up as babies.

Then we fear we might disappoint them! (Or in my case, I had no tools when I was told by my b-mother to never contact her again. How was I supposed to handle that?)

There are more traumas, too, that happen as you age – like when I’d fill out forms at the doctor’s office. I had no medical history. I had no idea if I was sitting next to someone who could be my biological brother, sister, mother or father. In my 20s it was terrifying to think I could marry my own relative! I could carry a gene or trait that I might pass down to my children – and I wouldn’t know until it’s too late. If my birth-parents were alcoholics (they were), then I really shouldn’t drink. I could be predisposed to diabetes or heart disease or cancer or depression and not even know. My list went on and on.

In 2006, I found out my birthmother had diabetes, another shock. I never knew anything about my mother’s side until the 1990s, then I met my dad when I was 38 in 1994.

Today I realize a powerful link exists between what I’m feeling and what happens in my body. There may be some adoptees who do not wish to face all this and go on as they are, holding on to these sad feelings and self-pity, rather than do the mental work to heal and go into reunions. Recognizing a pattern of belief is tough, partly because you gain sympathy by stealing (or sucking) energy from others when you act sick. Some call this co-dependent behavior. That is no way to live. You need to be your own person, self-energizing, and emotionally stable.

Some adoptees believe that when we meet first mother or father, all pain and agony will disappear. That sadly is just hope. That is not the way it works. A reunion is just one step on the journey and it helps, but there are many many more steps just as difficult.  It’s truly a test to get better.

Regardless of your ancestry, blood or skin color, adoptees can heal this.  But the only one who can fix you is YOU.

(to be continued)

Wilfred Buck Tells The Story Of Mista Muskwa

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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.

Diane Tells His Name

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Lost Birds on Al Jazeera Fault Lines

Lost Birds on Al Jazeera Fault Lines
click to read and listen about Trace, Diane, Julie and Suzie


As the single largest unregulated industry in the United States, adoption is viewed as a benevolent action that results in the formation of “forever families.”
The truth is that it is a very lucrative business with a known sales pitch. With profits last estimated at over $1.44 billion dollars a year, mothers who consider adoption for their babies need to be very aware that all of this promotion clouds the facts and only though independent research can they get an accurate account of what life might be like for both them and their child after signing the adoption paperwork.


Original Birth Certificate Map in the USA

Why tribes do not recommend the DNA swab

Rebecca Tallbear entitled: “DNA, Blood, and Racializing the Tribe”, bearing out what I only inferred:

Detailed discussion of the Bering Strait theory and other scientific theories about the population of the modern-day Americas is beyond the scope of this essay. However, it should be noted that Indian people have expressed suspicion that DNA analysis is a tool that scientists will use to support theories about the origins of tribal people that contradict tribal oral histories and origin stories. Perhaps more important,the alternative origin stories of scientists are seen as intending to weaken tribal land and other legal claims (and even diminish a history of colonialism?) that are supported in U.S. federal and tribal law. As genetic evidence has already been used to resolve land conflicts in Asian and Eastern European countries, this is not an unfounded fear.

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