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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Part 4: What if We Lost ICWA? So Many Questions

By Trace L Hentz, blog editor, adoptee

I am making a list of questions and answers:

Did you know you can use ICWA to open your adoption?

How hard is it to open your adoption?

How hard is it to find help, or know how to start?

MY Answers:

Does the ICWA afford access to adoption records? YES

Two provisions of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) provide a means for an adopted Indian to obtain information relating to his or her adoption. Section 1917 provides for release, upon application, of certain information by the court that entered the final decree. Section 1951(b) provides for a similar release of information by the Secretary of the Interior.  As indicated by the nominal number of cases addressing this issue, access to adoption records is routinely provided to Indian adoptees in order to establish tribal membership.   In only a few cases have the courts limited direct access of adoptees to their adoption records. In those cases, however, the Indian adoptees still obtained the necessary information to establish their tribal membership.  

See In re Mellinger, 672 A.2d 197, 199 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 1996). See also In re Rebecca, 601 N.Y.S.2d 682, 683-84 (Sur. Ct. 1993). 

The Practical Guide's Resources Section contains a sample application.


👉In the book CALLED HOME: The Roadmap (Book 2) - 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.


CONTACT the Secretary of the Interior:

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.

 If you are an adoptee, call the BIA today... then call again and again - flood their phones and request help! Talk about ICWA. They kept many many records on adoptees. They can tell you your tribe. DO NOT GIVE UP...

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! Be proud to protect ICWA for future generations!

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 Bureau of Indian Affairs will issue a Certificate degree of Indian Blood (CDIB) that shows your blood quantum and tribal affiliation. You will want to contact the BIA agency that provides services to the tribe you’re claiming heritage from in order to obtain the CDIB card, that information can be found in the Tribal Leaders Directory.

 ((This blog was created for adoptees like me... I will be back with more questions and answers))

To be continued



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