But the agency offered no help with housing, no help with a job and no help with education. They told her to surrender the child to “temporary” foster care, and then rushed to terminate her parental rights.
Ricky was placed with middle class foster parents in a nice, big home. First it was as a foster child, then it became his adoptive home.
Once, during a counseling session, The Detroit News reported, the boy was playing with two plastic horses when he said: “This little horse is going to die if he can’t be with his mother.” That proved prophetic. Ricky Holland’s white adoptive parents murdered him. They stuffed his body in a trash bag and left it by the side of a road.
Yet in all the years since, no one has suggested that, because of this horror story, the so-called Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA), the law that spurred the rush to place Ricky in the home where he was adopted to death, should be repealed or curbed. That’s understandable. There’s an excellent case for curbing ASFA, but it shouldn’t be built on horror stories that unfairly stigmatize entire groups.
Yet Marie Cohen offers a similar horror story involving a Native American home (recycled from the Goldwater Institute) as the only evidence in support of her claim that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) should be curbed. Or maybe should never have been passed at all; she’s not clear about that.
Cohen dismisses in a single sentence the horrors inflicted on Native American children that led to passage of ICWA. In fact, from the 19th century through the 1960s, American child welfare agencies tried to effectively eradicate Indian culture and, indeed, Indian tribes, by simply taking away children.
First, they were warehoused in hideous orphanages. Later, there was a campaign of mass adoptions. Melissa Harris Perry called the orphanages an “explicit cultural extermination mission.”
By the mid-20th century, people stopped actually saying “kill the Indian, save the child.” But it took ICWA to change practice, and it hasn’t changed nearly enough.