Mar 092017
 

Honorable Chairman John Hoeven,

On June 30, 2014, then U.S. President Barack Obama stated in a letter to Speaker John Boehner that children crossing our southern border are an urgent humanitarian situation and the U.S. has a legal and moral obligation to make sure they are appropriately cared for. Today, Americans across the nation are vilifying President Donald Trump out of concern for refugees across the world.

The federal government, which has claimed Native American children and their parents as wards, has an even greater legal and moral obligation to alleviate the humanitarian crisis within our reservation system. “…there is no resource that is more vital to the continued existence and integrity of Indian tribes than their children and that the United States has a direct interest, as trustee, in protecting Indian children who are members of or are eligible for membership in an Indian tribe…” (Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978)

Many across the world have also been outraged by the legal route chosen for the Dakota Access Pipeline. Despite clear facts outlined in the District Court ruling in September, 2016, an unsettling number of people have protested the danger youth of Standing Rock would face if at some point the water would become polluted.

Yet, most of these people have been silent concerning the number of murdered children on many reservations, as well as the epidemic of teen suicide. Albeit – many do not know about the violence. Much of the media that has been trumpeting unsubstantiated #NoDAPL claims, has ignored the documented reports of child abuse on many reservations.

Very few news outlets have reported on children such as 18-month-old Jastin Ian Blue, who, after having been removed from his mother due to neglect and abuse, was murdered by her in October, 2014, after Standing Rock officials returned him to her.

In 2014, the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association reported, “… research shows that while the US child mortality rate for children ages 1 to 14 has decreased by 9% since 2000, it has increased by 15% among AI/AN children.” And the Center for Native Youth reported, “Violence, including intentional injuries, homicide and suicide, account for 75% of deaths for AI/AN youth age 12 to 20” (SAMHSA). (Center for Native American Youth 2014). “Types of crimes that Native Americans are likely to be victimized by include: murder, assault, drug trafficking, human trafficking, and gang violence” (Tighe, 2014).(Hyland 2014, 4).

Worse, reservation child abuse is frequently underreported. It is common for those witnessing abuse to say nothing, as illustrated by the seven currently facing federal charges after Pine Ridge law enforcement found two toddlers in November, 2016, weighing 13 pounds each. The girls were so severely malnourished that a pediatrician compared them to World War II concentration camp prisoners. It appears many were aware of the girls’ condition, but said nothing.

There are varied reasons for this. There is a culture of silence on many reservations. You do not turn family in. Other witnesses may be afraid to come forward because they had been complicit or even participatory in the early stages of the abuse. Others say abuse must be kept quiet to prevent challenge to and weakening of tribal sovereignty and the Indian Child Welfare Act.

Whatever the reason, with few seeming to care about the abuse and trafficking on many reservations, children end up feeling trapped and hopeless. A report from President Obama’s office stated, “Suicide is the second leading cause of death—2.5 times the national rate—for Native youth in the 15 to 24 year old age group” (Executive Office of the President 2014, 5), while NICWA reported, “Native teens experience the highest rates of suicide of any population in the U.S.—at least 3.5 times higher than the national average.11 (NICWA, SAMHSA 2014)

Data concerning the extent of child abuse within Indian Country abounds. Some of the reports given by tribal entities and organizations have phrased the data to make it appear that these dangers are connected to heritage. But the data is flawed. There might, in fact, be a higher percentage of children hurt within the reservation system than currently thought, and it is not about heritage. The cited statistics most often include the number of those self-reporting heritage on the U.S. census. But most of those reporting heritage on the census live outside of Indian Country and are not having the same issues those living with reservation boundaries are experiencing.

According to the last two U.S. censuses, 75% of U.S citizens with tribal heritage live outside of Indian Country. This includes persons of 100% heritage who choose not to be involved with the reservation system. Some have moved away to protect their children from the high incidence of crime and corruption. Others have never lived on a reservation. In fact, most enrollable citizens have less than 50% tribal heritage, have mainstreamed, and are well-connected with non-native relatives. Some have not been connected to the reservation system for over two generations.

Further, many dissident families living away from the reservation system may or may not have been experiencing the levels of abuse and violence that children within the reservation system experience. The data on their health doesn’t always make it to the reporters of tribal health and welfare statistics. Some of these families living outside the reservation system may self-report elements of their heritage to the U.S. census, but that does not mean they are eligible for federal Indian benefits, are served by tribal resources, or have any connection with Indian Country. Many of them are uncountable in the statistics gathered by Indian Health Services or other reporters.

The reported data concerning ‘Native American child abuse’ consequently pertains more to children within Indian Country who use the benefits and services and are under the auspices of tribal governments, the federal Administration of Children and Families, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and other federal ‘help’ agencies – than it does to children in the mainstream who are unconnected to Indian Country.

Clearly – all this considered – emotional and physical dangers for children are much greater within Indian Country than they are without. Violence is higher for many reasons – including (but not limited to) the inability of State law enforcement to make arrests, the prevalence of gang activity, alcohol and drug abuse, and alcohol related birth defects. Yet, despite the many hearings, reports and billions of dollars spent to improve quality of life within the reservation system, the situation appears to be only getting worse.

Unfortunately, ICWA statistics – including how many children are affected by the ICWA every year, what percentage of those affected were taken from long term homes where they felt safe and loved – then placed into tribal foster homes and been hurt, what percentage had never lived within Indian Country or been acquainted with the culture prior to being subjected to ICWA, and what the long-term emotional and physical health outcomes for the children have been – are not readily available. But that doesn’t dismiss the value of common sense and logic.

The theoretical implication of the large amount of available data on Native American child abuse – data that has been reported as true by tribal government entities, their supporters, and the Obama administration – is that children who are taken from homes known and proven to be safe, stable, and emotionally and physically healthy outside of Indian Country, and placed into a home within Indian Country, are more likely to be placed into situations less safe, stable, and emotionally and physically healthy than the home they have been taken from.

Further, these theoretical implications should be obvious to tribal and federal governments as well as organizations servicing Indian Country, as they are the ones reporting the data.

Therefore, children who fall under the jurisdiction of the Indian Child Welfare Act – meaning children who a tribal government has deemed to be members and who have been brought before a judge for a custody hearing, regardless of whether they and their families have been connected to Indian Country – are being consciously placed into potentially dangerous living situations by tribal, state, and/or federal government officials who know – or should know – the potential for harm.

Nevertheless, a concerned community does not wait for additional studies to act on an obvious and immediately known danger. We don’t wait for a study to rush a child out of a burning building. When a child is bleeding to death, we know to immediately put pressure on the wound and get the child to a hospital. Unwillingness to deal effectively with the immediate needs of children suffering extreme physical or sexual abuse from their extended family or neighborhood casts doubt on tribal and federal government assertions that the best interest of the children is of paramount importance.

The real racism – is the attitude that the documented and immediate needs of certain children of a particular heritage can wait a few more years so as to not interfere with the desires and demands of political leadership. While claiming to be “raising the standard” for children of heritage by allowing them to stay in a documented dangerous environment, or to return to a dangerous family setting prematurely, or to take them from an environment known to be safe and deliberately place them in danger – federal and tribal officials have been in fact lowering the standard to the point of cruel negligence. Many children of tribal heritage are, in fact, not being given protection equal to what other children are legally mandated to receive.

http://caicw.org

The twin of murdered toddler Lauryn Whiteshield, is currently threatened with removal from her home in Bismarck – to be placed back on the Spirit Lake reservation where she watched her sister die. We can only imagine the horror the foster parents are feeling right now, not to mention how this now six-year-old will feel when the transfer takes place. In the Spring of 2013, the three-year-old twin sisters were taken from the safe, loving home in Bismarck where they had lived most of their lives. and were placed with their grandfather and his girlfriend, a woman known to have been abusive to children in the past. Lauryn was murdered within a few weeks. This happened during a period when both the BIA and U.S. Attorney’s office had taken over law enforcement and social services on the Spirit Lake Reservation due to a rash of uninvestigated child homicides and were supposedly monitoring placements to prevent further murders. The non-native foster mom the girls were taken from read a victim’s impact statement for the sentencing of the murderer of Lauryn. The federal government, she said, allowed it to happen, and “ICWA can be an evil law when twisted to fit the tribes wants or needs.”

The Goldwater Institute wrote concerning Lauryn, “The forced transfer from a safe, loving foster family to a home that posed great and obvious danger to the girls did not happen in a third-world country but in the United States. It did not happen 40 or 60 years ago but in 2013. And it did not happen because the court ignored the law but because it followed it. Had any of the child custody laws of the 50 states been applied, in all likelihood Lauryn would be alive today. That is because state laws require consideration of the “best interests of the child” in determining termination of parental rights, foster placements, and adoptions. That bedrock rule protects all American children – except children of Native American ancestry, like Lauryn. Although she had never lived on a reservation, because of Lauryn’s ancestry, she was made subject to the Indian tribe’s jurisdiction, which determined it was better to “reunify” her with a grandfather with whom she had never lived instead of the non-Indian foster family who had raised her from infancy and wanted to adopt her.” (Bolick 2015).

While adoption isn’t the only or best answer for every situation in Indian Country, it is notable that on January 1, 2013, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed S. Res. 628, expressing disappointment over the Russian law banning adoption of children by American citizens.

Senator James Inhofe, one of the two Senate Co-chairs of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, rightly stated, “It is extremely unfortunate and disheartening that the Russian Duma and President Putin would choose to deprive the children, the very children that they are entrusted to care for, the ability to find a safe and caring family that every child deserves…It is nothing more than a political play…that ultimately leads to greater hardships and more suffering for Russian children who will now be denied a loving family.”

The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Members also sent a bi-partisan letter to President Putin urging him to veto the legislation, stating, “…Nothing is more important to the future of our world than doing our best to give as many children the chance to grow up in a family as we possibly can.”

Americans have continually expressed concern over Vladimir Putin’s adoption ban. As recently as in the last couple weeks, evangelical ethicist Russell Moore and Kay Warren, wife of Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren, have blasted the ongoing restrictions and called on Christians to pray for abandoned babies and children in that country. It is admirable that Americans feel the pain of Russian children deprived of love and stability and want to help. Americans need to be made aware of children with comparable needs here in America.

The argument against ICWA goes further than just adoption, though. Speaking as the birth mother of several enrollable children – it is also important to recognize that many birth families don’t want tribal governments to have jurisdiction and control over their children.

Children who had never been near a reservation nor involved in tribal customs, some with extremely minimal blood quantum – as well as some with maximum quantum – have been removed from homes they know and love and placed with strangers chosen by tribal social services. Although it is often said that the ICWA has safeguards to prevent misuse, stories concerning the trauma of ICWA on families – including multi-racial families – abound across America. Abuses are rampant on many reservations because the U.S. Government has set up a system that allows extensive abuse to occur unchecked and without repercussion.

It appears some within our federal government have reduced our children to the status of a mere “resource’ – choosing to please political leaders rather than save children’s lives. This, while denying tribal members the right to oversee and manage their own physical property and resources. Children, it seems, are a demanded “resource” – and personal, private property is disregarded and ignored as an economic resource. When one boils down the entirety of federal Indian policy – just how does our federal government view tribal members? Indeed, why are children treated as assets, and adults treated as children?

The ability to use your personal property as leverage – to collateralize your assets – is an important economic principle. Yet this principle is denied to individual tribal members despite the extreme level of poverty within Indian Country. It is undeniably a direct result of the infringement of federal Indian policy on individuality, liberty and property that many tribal members continue to struggle in poverty.

Allowing property rights for individual members – while removing the financial incentive for tribal leaders to use children as property, supporting law enforcement, and upholding full constitutional rights and protections for all citizens – would vastly improve the economy, attract more members back to Indian Country, and potentially lessen the financial incentive for tribal leaders to use children as a financial resource. Allowing individuals to freely use their personal resources as financial leverage would preserve to citizens their God-given right to individuality, liberty, and property.

It’s time to stop listening to those with a vested financial interest in increasing tribal government power. Every time power to tribal leaders is increased, tribal members – U.S. citizens – are robbed of civil freedoms under the constitution of the United States. Equal Protection is a constitutional right. More power given to tribal leaders means less freedom and constitutional rights for tribal members.

This said, we are asking you, Senator Hoeven, to include these issues in the 2017-2018 Senate Committee on Indian Affairs agenda:

A. Guarantee protection for children of Native American heritage equal to that of any other child in the United States.
B. Guarantee that fit parents, no matter their heritage, have the right to choose healthy guardians or adoptive parents for their children without concern for heritage.
C. Recognize the “Existing Indian Family Doctrine” as a viable analysis for consideration and application in child custody proceedings. (See In re Santos Y, In Bridget R., and In re Alexandria Y.)
D. Guarantee that United States citizens, no matter their heritage, have a right to fair trials.

• When summoned to a tribal court, parents and legal guardians will be informed of their legal rights, including USC 25 Chapter 21 1911 (b) “…In any State court proceeding for the foster care placement of, or termination of parental rights to, an Indian child not domiciled or residing within the reservation of the Indian child’s tribe, the court, in the absence of good cause to the contrary, shall transfer such proceeding to the jurisdiction of the tribe, absent objection by either parent…”

E. Include well defined protections for Adoptive Parents.
F. Mandate that a “Qualified expert witness” be someone who has professional knowledge of the child and family – not merely knowledge of the tribe or traditional customs – and is able to advocate for the well-being of the child, first and foremost.
G. Mandate that only parents and/or legal custodians have the right to enroll a child into an Indian Tribe. It is claimed that tribal membership is a political rather than racial designation, therefore, parents, as U.S. citizens, should be the sole decision makers in regard to political affiliation for their families. Political membership should not be forced upon children or families.

• Remove the words “or are eligible for membership in” 1901 (3)
• Remove the words “eligible for membership in” from 1903 (4) (b), the definition of an ‘Indian child’ and replace with the words “an enrolled member of”

H. Secure to all American citizens their individuality, liberty and property. “Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws [for the protection of them] in the first place.” (Frederic Bastiat, The Law, p. 5-6.)

These requests can be summarized as an insistence that all American citizens, no matter their heritage, be allowed full benefit of their constitutional rights. We can expand on any of these points and provide documented reasoning upon request.

In the words of Dr. William Allen, Emeritus Professor, Political Science, MSU and former Chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, when speaking at the ICWA forum, October, 2011, in the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs chambers:

“… We are talking about our brothers and our sisters. We’re talking about what happens to people who share with us an extremely important identity. And that identity is the identity of free citizens in a Republic…”

Thank you,

Elizabeth Morris
Chairwoman
Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

READERS: Three of the children in this attached photo were murdered after being placed by the Indian Child Welfare Act into homes that were or should have been KNOWN to be very dangerous.

Another child shown here was beaten after being taken from his very safe, loving Latino grandparents and placed with his maternal grandmother on the Ute reservation. The maternal grandmother had a recorded history of child abuse. Her daughter – the mother of this child – was removed from her care due to abuse. That daughter did NOT want her children placed with her mother – she KNEW the children would be abused. The State of California and the Ute reservation did it anyway – resulting in permanent brain damage to one of the children within three weeks.

The fifth child in this photo was taken at the age of six from the only home she knew and loved. She had an extremely small percentage of heritage – but was still considered the property of the tribal government and subject to their abuse of law.

Please share this with your friends.

PLEASE also share with YOUR Congressmen. MANY of them take a stand on all kinds of things – from orphans in Russia to immigrants and refugees from overseas. DEMAND that they take a strong stand for children in the United States – CITIZENS subject to abuse by a law they – Congress – created and MUST remove.

Find your States Congressmen here:
https://www.senate.gov/
https://www.house.gov/

Thank you – and PLEASE Share….

Mar 012017
 
http://caicw.org

3-yr-old Laurynn and her twin, Michaela, were thrown down an embankment. The woman caring for her – their grandfather’s wife – then told her children to go down and beat them senseless. They did. When they were done, both girls were alive, but Laurynn was “not right.” Her eyes were funny.

Following the beating that day in June 2013, the family took the twins home, gave them a bath, and put them to bed. Sometime later that night, lying on the bed next to her twin, Laurynn died.

3-yr-old Michaela was the first to see her sister dead. She remembers waking up and finding her (in her words) “blue, and gray.” She also still remembers the beatings. It had happened more than once.

But she has forgotten the actual people she was living with. They are mercifully gone from her memory.

She hasn’t had to see them for three years. She was thankfully allowed to return to an off-reservation foster home she and her sister had lived in the first two years of their lives – where they both had felt safe and loved. We will call this the “Loved Home.”

They had only lived in their grandfather’s house a few weeks. In May 2013, they were taken from the “Loved Home” they had lived in since they were babies, and – despite Spirit Lake services being under the oversight of the BIA and US Attorney Tim Purdon – were placed with their grandfather and his wife – who had her own children removed from her in prior years due to neglect and child abuse.

Let this sink in. Under the oversight of federal gov’t agencies, the twins were removed from a safe and loving home they had lived in for over two years and were placed with a woman known to be physically abusive.

Let us also remember why the BIA and US Attorney Tim Purdon were asked to be there, doing oversight at Spirit Lake. It is because so many children were being abused, raped, and murdered, that tribal elders (NOT the tribal council) were very upset and ASKED the federal gov’t to come help.

The child abuse came to a head after a little boy and his sister were both raped and had their throats slit. Nothing had been done about their murders for over a year.

That is why tribal elders asked the BIA to take over tribal social services and law enforcement. That is why US Attorney Tim Purdon and the FBI were supposed to do oversight. All this was already in place when it was decided to take the twins from the Loved Home and put them into a dangerous home.

Spirit Lake Town Meeting, February , 2013
Had Tim Purdon and others done their jobs, perhaps Lauryn would still be alive today. Had he and others listened to tribal members at a February 2013 town-hall meeting, where tribal members made it very clear to Tim Purdon, the tribal council, the BIA and Congressional representatives that things are very, very bad at Spirit Lake and they want SOMEONE to take real action – perhaps Lauryn would still be alive today.

Instead, Tim Purdon basically accused the membership of exaggerating, accused former ACF Director Tom Sullivan of lying about the child abuse, and went on doing nothing to stop the child abuse. The Tribal Council also ignored the pleas of the membership.

Initially, after Laurynn died, the Spirit Lake government decided to keep Michaela on the reservation. Despite the trauma of the beatings and murder, tribal social services ignored the request of the Loved Home to resume care of Michaela, and moved her to another house she was unfamiliar with. The Loved Home was told they would never get her back.

Fortunately, the tribal govt soon changed its mind and quietly allowed her to return to the Loved Home.

But that isn’t the end of the story. Three years later – (meaning at this time) – tribal social service has returned and is intent on moving Michaela to live with her birth mother, whom she barely knows. While mom might have genuine feelings for her daughter, she tested positive for drugs on the day she showed up for a recent visit – one of the first visits in a long time.

I normally never get involved in a situation unless directly asked by a parent, primary caregiver, or close extended family.

I was not given any of the intimate details concerning Michaela by the Loved Home. I have never been to the Loved Home. I have never met anyone who lives at the Loved Home. I was never asked to get involved by anyone at the Loved Home.

There are many people – in more than one community – who know what is going on, including tribal employees who worked at Spirit Lake at the time of Laurynn’s murder. Lots of people want Michaela to be left alone, untouched by the Spirit Lake tribal government.

I know these details to be accurate but will not say how I know. I am doing this – and will continue fighting for Michaela using her real name – because this is the most horrendous thing I have ever heard a tribal government do to a child.

Michaela is terrified of going back to Spirit Lake. Michaela wants to stay at the Loving Home. What caring person in their right mind would find that surprising? She woke up next to her murdered sister, after enduring weeks of abuse together.

The Loving Home has been the only home she has ever felt safe in – and she has lived there most of her 6-years. Only extremely cold, emotionally disconnected hearts empowered by dysfunctional social service policy could ever even dream of moving her from there.

Self-interest and narcissism at its worst.

PLEASE –
– SHARE this post with your friends
– CALL your Senators and Congressmen and ask them to write a letter to the Spirit Lake Tribal Chair respectfully asking her to ensure everything is done in Michaela’s best interest.

– Please especially contact the new Chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs – Senator John Hoeven –

Hoeven, John – (R – ND)
338 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-2551
Contact: www.hoeven.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/email-the-senator

– FURTHER – ask your Senators and Congressmen to introduce legislation to clarify the Indian Child Welfare Act – so that NO child ever again goes through what Michaela has gone through and is still going through. Please INSIST this stops. Please insist to your Congressmen that Michaela Whiteshield be left alone, as she wishes to be, permanently – and INSIST the law be changed to make the protection of children a priority over politics.

Find the contact information for your Congressmen at

http://Senate.gov
http://House.gov

BTW – Tim Purdon resigned as US Attorney a couple years ago in order to work for tribal leaders in the Dakotas.

– Maybe ask your Congressmen to have Purdon’s activities investigated as well.

Feb 202017
 

Over the years, we have seen so many distraught families – panicked over what was happening to their children, unsure what to do to protect them, and unable to get help.

Many times, especially in light of the new ICWA rules and guidelines published by the Obama admin in 2016, …there has been little a family could do.

Watching several families struggle at this current time, we have come to a decision:

Whereas, up to half of Americans believe sanctuaries from federal law are a good and reasonable necessity – where people, fleeing oppression from their home nation, can hide from federal law that would send them back to that home nation;

And Whereas; most American citizens believe federal laws that target, isolate, and separate children and families on the basis of heritage are unconstitutional and should not be allowed;

And Whereas, for decades in America, many Christian church buildings have served as sanctuaries, and while there is no law defining a sanctuary or mandating it be respected, the federal government has often declined to enter and forcibly remove people from a declared Christian Sanctuary;

And Whereas, federal authorities have shown their willingness to ignore state and federal law for the last two years when they declined to enter the Cheyenne River Reservation to remove two little girls who were taken from North Dakota by their non-custodial mother when their non-tribal fathers were granted legal custody; and federal authorities have also shown their willingness to ignore federal law in several cases during the 1980’s when Guatemalan illegal-immigrants sought sanctuary in various church buildings around the country;

And Whereas; many children of tribal heritage, even in teen years, have expressed their desire to stay with their chosen families and not be uprooted by tribal governments, but were ignored by tribal, state and/or federal officials;

And Whereas; many birth parents have objected to tribal jurisdiction over, or involvement in, their families, and have made it clear they do NOT want their children on the reservation or their custody case heard in tribal court, but were ignored by tribal, state and/or federal officials;

And Whereas; many extended family, of varied heritages, have had children removed from them by tribal officials for no other reason than that the tribal officials did not like that branch of the family, or the family was non-Indian, or there were friends or family of tribal officials that wanted the child;

And Whereas; there are many documented instances of tribal courts practicing corruption and nepotism in their choice of homes for children, despite clear evidence of harm to children in those homes;

And Whereas; an untenable number of children have been sexually abused, seriously injured or murdered as a result of placement in homes under the Indian Child Welfare Act;

And Whereas; there is solid legal argument concerning the unconstitutionality of the ‘Indian Child Welfare Act,’ and Justice Clarence Thomas intimated as much in his concurrence in the case, “Adoptive Couple vs. Baby Girl;

And Whereas; once a child has been placed in the custody of a tribal government, particularly within reservation boundaries, it can be extremely difficult to remove the child;

The Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare does hereby from this day forward declare itself a ‘Sanctuary for Children and Families Threatened by the Indian Child Welfare Act.’

Families will need to show:

1) It is in the child’s clear best interest to remain with them; or that while best interest might yet be unclear, the child needs more time for all aspects to be studied and for true best interest to be made clear; and
2) They are in imminent danger of being forcibly removed by tribal authorities and/or local police under the direction of tribal authorities.
3) They intend to tirelessly work a plan of action to prove and win the best interest of the particular child or children;
4) Understand the CAICW sanctuary they would stay in is a Christian home – where Jesus Christ is Lord.

Lastly, we fully respect President Trump’s position concerning federal funds – and can proudly guarantee we will not be requesting or requiring any federal funds for this Sanctuary.

Families can contact us by messenger or email.

PLEASE – share this message freely.

__________________________________________________

– – Those who object to this and see things from a progressive perspective can explain why they feel it is okay for sanctuaries to shield people of some heritages from some federal laws, but not people of other heritages from other federal laws.

– – Those who see things from a conservative perspective and object to any instance where a person is shielded from federal law… We can only beg your understanding that these children are American citizens, and the federal law in question does not provide equal protection. Please ask your Senators and Congressman to act quickly on repealing this law, so that no child of tribal heritage will need a sanctuary.

Feb 102017
 

Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978 to protect Indian children from removal from their tribes and assure tribal governments the opportunity to raise Indian children in a manner reflecting “the unique values of Indian culture” (25 U.S.C. § 1902). However, while some children and families faced with foster care, adoption or child custody disputes have felt protected by the law, others have felt forced into relationship with tribal governments. The national dilemma has become whether an individual’s right to privacy and choice is of less priority than tribal sovereignty and the future of the tribe.

In 2013, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas noted, “In light of the original understanding of the Indian Commerce Clause, the constitutional problems that would be created by application of the ICWA here are evident” (Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl 2013).

Further, some tribal attorneys assert a right to claim any child deemed a member. Supporting a case involving a child of 1% heritage, Chrissi Nimmo, Attorney General for the Cherokee Nation has stated, “… we repeatedly explained that… tribes can choose members who don’t have any Indian blood” (Rowley 2015).

In light of the constitutional issues inherent in the law and its damaging overreach, the ICWA needs to be repealed.

Download (PDF, 612KB)

Jan 232017
 

In June 2016, a little girl was beaten and left to drown in a bucket in the shower.

(See the Star & Tribune – http://www.startribune.com/foster-father-accused-in-girl-s-death-had-criminal-record/383206481/)

Had a new law governing background checks been in place earlier – this little girl would not have died. Nathan Daniel Jackson, the man who murdered this beautiful little girl, had a criminal record of fifth-degree assault and theft would have prevented him from being a care provider.

This new law – which was sponsored by Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) and Representative Kevin Cramer (R-ND) – requires tribal members on the reservation to have background checks before becoming foster-care parents. (These checks were not required prior). Senator John Hoeven

Senator Hoeven is now the new chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Please thank him for caring about what was happening to children at Spirit Lake four years ago, and writing this law.

The reality is that it is not uncommon for Leech Lake Social Services, Spirit Lake Social Services, Red Lake, White Earth, Pine Ridge, Cheyenne River and others to place children into dangerous homes. Children are placed in dangerous homes on a consistent basis. Every month or so we hear of another child hurt or dead. Further, tribal members tell us that we aren’t even hearing about all the children who die. There isn’t always publicity when it happens.

Nevertheless, Leech Lake has consistently placed children in homes with criminal records and drug issues. That is because of the extremely high percentage of homes in Leech Lake that have criminal records and drug issues. So they didn’t bother doing background checks – because they didn’t really want to know or have to put in their records – because then they would have to look for another home. It’s too much work to find homes.

When Leech Lake placed four children with my husband and I almost 20 years ago, they did not do any back ground check at all. They never even visited our home until a year after the children were placed with us, and then they only visited for an hour. That was it. That was the last we saw of them – and we raised the kids to adulthood.

Leech Lake continues to operate this way today. We hear numerous stories of children placed into homes known to be dangerous. We are grateful for and praying that Senator Hoeven’s bill mandating background checks will make a profound difference. But we worry that there is no oversight to ensure the background checks are being done, and no consequences to a tribe if something happens due to their not doing background checks.

We need to encourage Senator Hoeven to strengthen the law to ensure compliance.

Lastly – even if a home is not dangerous – social services should be trying to place children into homes that make sense. Hennipen County called me repeatedly throughout 2013 to ask me to take another infant nephew from Leech Lake. I hadn’t had contact with Leech Lake tribal social services in almost 20 years and had never given them indication that I wanted to take care of children again, but a niece had given them my name soon after her son was born. My newborn nephew had never lived in her home – he had gone straight to foster care. I was called soon after. I told them I can’t – and Leech Lake spent over year trying to find a home, occasionally calling and asking me again.

When the ICWA worker from Leech Lake called me about this little boy in December, 2013 – he was already over a year old. Ironically, when Leech Lake’s ICWA office called me that Dec. morning, I was in fact in Washington DC, speaking against the ICWA law. (Needless to say, I found that kind of ironic.)

I had said no to them several times over the year – but this time, they said if I didn’t do it, they would place him in the home of “Xxxxx” – who, according to Leech Lake, they felt was dangerous. Knowing the home she referred to, I had to agree. (Note: according to the worker, they WOULD place him into a home they knew was dangerous if I did not take him. – – trying to make me feel guilty, while at the same time, admitting they are willing to do it, and thus don’t have any real, genuine standards against placing a child in a dangerous home.)

So now I was in a quandary.

I cared deeply what was happening to my nephew, but I was not the right home for him. I have already said – I was not the right home for the four I had raised earlier. They all needed a home with parents TRAINED to deal with their FAS, ADHD and other issues. I was NOT that mom, but I was all Leech Lake would give them. YOU SEE? Leech Lake did great disservice to them by not allowing them to go to a home outside of family – a home that could genuinely meet their needs.

I felt pushed into taking four children twenty years earlier. I cared about the kids – that is why we agreed to do it. – But unlike so many of my great foster and adoptive mother friends – I never really wanted to raise anyone else’s kids. That is the sad truth. As a result, I never did settle down to feel comfortable with the situation. (Further, those were four kids with FAS – and no one had told me that – nor had anyone told me how to deal with it.)

So… was I going to be forced into this corner a second time? How is that fair to my nephew? How is that good for him?

THIS is another part of what ICWA does. We aren’t the only ones who have felt this way. Some families feel forced into a corner – not wanting to take in kids, but feeling guilty if they don’t. ICWA doesn’t give lot of options to the children OR families involved.

Families of other heritages have more options.

Further – at this point, I was a widow over 50. What a crime to this innocent child – to be forced into a situation with an elderly widow. I told Hennipen County this little boy deserved a healthy home with both a mother and a father in their 30’s who were looking for a child such as him – NO MATTER anyone’s heritage!

Look for the RIGHT home for HIM – don’t just put him into ‘any old’ home based on ICWA! Quit making things all about race! Start to care what is BEST for the baby!

The fact is – my nephew needed more than I could give him, and he shouldn’t be forced to settle for me. He deserved to be raised with a healthy Dad in the home. So after much thought and prayer, I said, “no.”

I asked Hennipen County to promise me that my nephew would go to a good home. The Hennipen County worker promised, and said he would let me know the outcome. He said I had a right to know, as I was family. (The baby did not go to Xxxxx’s home.)

But now see? THIS is how some kids end up in dangerous homes. Leech Lake Social services gives up trying to find a good home, and then rather than admit they don’t have a good home and allow the child to go to an appropriate home outside of Indian Country – they go ahead and place the child anywhere. ANYWHERE. And then claim it is in the child’s best interest.

THIS is how that happens. THIS is how the little girl in the attached story ended up in the home of a man with a criminal record.

ICWA – as a law – is horrid. In the first place, it is based on lies. Every time NICWA, NARF, and the Casey Foundation make a claim about what kids of heritage want and need – about how badly they need to be connected to Indian Country – they are lying. I have raised many children who have NOT needed to be connected to Indian Country.

NICWA, NARF, tribal governments and the Casey Foundation do NOT know what every child of heritage wants and needs. They can’t possibly know. To assume all persons of a certain heritage think and feel the same way is RACIST.

Lastly, my children are NOT a ‘treaty right’ for tribal government.
I don’t care what faux laws are passed or what rogue agencies like the BIA and ACF try to shove down our throats – there is NOTHING in any treaty that allows a tribal government to own our kids.

The world can see how Leech Lake Social Services chooses homes for children. Why would I want them to have any say over children of mine?

We are very grateful for the right step taken by Senator Hoeven and Congressman Cramer in pushing for background checks for ALL foster caregivers and EVERY adult living in the home. THANK YOU – to both of them.

But this battle will never be over until ICWA is repealed.

– See http://www.startribune.com/foster-father-accused-in-girl-s-death-had-criminal-record/383206481/

Sep 122016
 

Here are five things you can do to help our efforts:
(We love to mimic the opposition. Compare and contrast.) –

1. Learn all you can about ICWA, and watch the news for latest developments.
• ICWA is a complex law and there are frequently new legal developments.
• CAICW has created this web site to house resources including articles, family stories, case law, and other important links – http://caicw.org
• Bookmark this Facebook page, and share it with your family and friends.

2. Ask your city, county, state, tribal and federal officials or organization’s governing body to officially pledge to defend the best interest of individual children, NOT the best interest of a political entity, and not acquiesce to any legislation that paints children with one brush, based solely on their heritage. This is the epitome of racism.
• Our opposition portrays Indian Country as totally united over ICWA, cherry picking the comments of a few Roland and his newborn, 1990and presenting them as evidence that ALL Native people are united behind ICWA.
• Waves of heart-felt resolutions defending the rights of children and families to choose their own political affiliations, community affiliations, worldviews, and spirituality, passed in cascading fashion across the United States would send a powerful message that there is indeed near-universal support for the rights and protection of children and families.
• CAICW has shared our resolution so that your community or organization can replicate it.

3. Meet with your state child welfare director, attorney general, and governor and request that your state sign on to ALL amicus briefs opposing ICWA in these court cases.
• Undoubtedly, these officials are being approached by pro-ICWA attorneys asking that they file briefs supporting ICWA.
• In Adoptive Couple, our opponent, NICWA quickly mobilized with this tactic, and garnered amicus support from 19 states.

4. Share ICWA stories of parents, children, foster families, and others.
• There is overwhelming need to share with the media, public officials, and each other YOUR stories of how ICWA has hurt you, your family, and your friends. Children have died. Families have been torn apart. Communities and relatives have come together to fight for the rights and protection of our children – only to be thwarted by the money and power of tribal leaders who don’t even know our children, let alone their wants and needs.
• Use social media to share your stories. Participate in our social media campaign – share from our facebook and twitter pages.
• Contact your State and Federal legislators to share your stories and our Setting the Record Straighter Fact Sheet. Encourage others to do the same.
• Send your story to CAICW to support the national work. ([email protected])
• Develop a relationship with reporters – share with them stories of children and families hurt by ICWA on a regular basis. Also share new things happening in the courts or Congress related to ICWA.

5. Contribute to the work for justice and ask your community to contribute to the work for justice.
• Over the years, CAICW has built a strong coalition of advocates willing to defend Children. We do not ask for your money – only that you support by using the above four points. If we need to go to DC, we will let you know. Otherwise, we do just fine in the home office, eating oatmeal and hard boiled eggs.
• Donate to families who need legal help (here if you wish) as well as the Goldwater Institute, which has filed a class-action, constitutional lawsuit concerning the rights of our children.
• Simply put, our staff is 100% volunteer and we are able to use our limited resources creatively and work effectively for under $7000 a year. Primarily, we covet your prayers to help us with this critical work. Please pray today.

And Share.

Sep 122016
 

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHTEST
The Indian Child Welfare Act Fact Sheet
FROM CHRISTIAN ALLIANCE FOR INDIAN CHILD WELFARE

In direct response to a “fact” sheet published by the National Indian Child Welfare Association in September, 2015.

The Truth about ICWA

Recently, some extremely well-funded ICWA groups have been promoting a campaign of misinformation rooted in the most egregious negative stereotypes about non-tribal social services and families. With the support of a coalition of national Native nonprofit organizations – including the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) – certain tribal entities have been turning truth on its head.

ICWA has lowered the bar of child welfare practice to the point of neglect for Native children. ICWA is proudly promoted as righting the wrongs of the past – but playing “pay-back time” with the lives of today’s children is a horrendous excuse for a law and, if truly one of ICWA’s purposes, amounts to a gross exploitation of children. ICWA is also said to address the current injustices that AI/AN children and families still face, but again, subjecting children to prolonged abuse and neglect under the justification that racial injustice exists is a horrendous excuse for a law and – if truly one of ICWA’s purposes – amounts to gross neglect of children. The rampant abuse children are subjected to in Indian Country has been well documented for many years by NICWA and other organizations:

• “Neglect endangers AI/AN children 4 times more often than physical abuse and results in numerous child fatalities” (NICWA, 1999).
• “I would venture to say over 80 percent of our children are traumatized at an early age; and so, therefore, their ability to learn and comprehend is affected very severely” (Green Bay, WI) (NIEA 2006, 23).
• “Many of the perceptions provided by tribal professionals in this survey are supported by recent data gathered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Office of Justice Services from 96 Indian country law enforcement agencies that suggests meth is the greatest threat in their communities. These law enforcement agencies also identified increases in domestic violence, assaults, burglaries, and child abuse and neglect cases with the increased use of meth” (Roe Bubar 2007, 10).
• “… They also expressed an awareness of increases in child abuse allegations and out-of-home placements involving a meth-related investigation” (Roe Bubar, 2007, p. 10).
• “…The almost 40 children returned to on-reservation placements in abusive homes, many headed by known sex offenders, at the direction of the Tribal Chair. These children remain in the full time care and custody of sexual predators available to be raped on a daily basis. Since I filed my first report noting this situation, nothing has been done by any of you to remove these children to safe placements” (Sullivan, 2013).
• “The 45 children who were placed, at the direction of Tribal Social Services (TSS), BIA social workers, BIA supervised TSS social workers and the BIA funded Tribal Court, in homes where parents were addicted to drugs and/or where they had been credibly accused of abuse or neglect. Since I filed my first report noting these placements, nothing has been done to remove these children to safe placements. I trust the Tribal Court, with the recent resignation of a judge who failed a drug test, will begin to be responsive to the children whose placements they oversee” (Sullivan, 2013).
• “The 25 cases of children most of whom were removed from physically and sexually abusive homes based on confirmed reports of abuse as well as some who still remain in those homes. Neither the BIA nor the FBI have taken any action to investigate or charge the adults in these homes for their criminally abusive acts. Many, of the adults in these homes are related to, or are close associates of, the Tribal Chair or other Council members” (Sullivan, 2013).
• “…at least two children a day were victims of crime. That is astronomical. That is off of the charts compared to the co-occurrence of child maltreatment and domestic violence in the mainstream” (Hallie Bongar White 2014, 26).
• “Violence, including intentional injuries, homicide and suicide, account for 75% of deaths for AI/AN youth age 12 to 20” (SAMHSA). (Center for Native American Youth 2014).
• “…in 2010, 40 percent of children seen at Child Advocacy Centers for child sexual abuse were Alaska Native, even though we only represent 15 percent of the entire population in the state of Alaska. That is just strictly unacceptable” (Hallie Bongar White 2014, 27-28)
• “…it is estimated that 35 percent of children exposed to domestic violence will develop trauma-related difficulties (Moretti et al., 2006). …Similarly, it is estimated that between 42 percent and 90 percent of child victims of sexual abuse will develop trauma-related difficulties (De Bellis, Spratt and Hooper, 2011). …statistics related to both these issues are thought to be underestimates (Leventhal, 1998; Wilt and Olson, 1996). It is therefore likely that the actual prevalence of PTSD stemming from both childhood sexual abuse and exposure to domestic violence is greater than stated above. More difficult to estimate is the number of children repeatedly exposed to or even directly threatened by various forms of neighborhood violence” (Richard G. Dudley 2015, 9).
• “According to this data, 11 AI/AN children died in 2012 due to child abuse and neglect (DHHS, 2013). This data reflects only those child fatalities that have been reported to state authorities. However, because incidents of child maltreatment that occur under a tribe’s exclusive jurisdiction and where tribal services are provided are not necessarily reported to the state and included in national data systems, this number is likely a slight underestimate (Earl, 2001, p. 8)” (NICWA 2015).

ICWA does not provide the high standards and accountability required to protect children – as evidenced by numerous documented reports from tribal government entities and their supporters, as well as much anecdotal evidence from witnesses, including affected children and families. As to statements by NICWA concerning the benefits of ICWA, NICWA claims that:

• ICWA “asks social workers and courts to examine whether the use of intensive in-home services would be just as, or more, effective in protecting a child’s safety and best interest, rather than simply resorting to a de facto removal of the child as the first option.” – – In-home services that were truly intensive could be effective. Yet, even if the question has been asked and a truly intensive in-home program has been implemented, statistics do not appear to reflect evidence that this intervention has been effective.
• ICWA “encourages the use of culturally specific services that are more likely to successfully strengthen AI/AN families and help AI/AN children stay safely at home.” – – Culturally specific services can be effective if the service offers the culture of the individual child and family. But again, despite current efforts to provide culturally specific services, statistics appear to show drug, alcohol, and violence issues getting worse within reservation boundaries.
• ICWA “also helps States secure tribal assistance and ensures that experts are present in the courtroom when important decisions about the child are made.” – – ‘Tribal experts’ are often hired and paid by tribal governments and their supporting organizations. Many of these experts are there to protect tribal sovereignty and the best interest of tribal government. They frequently do not actually know the child or the child’s family – especially if the child and family have never lived in Indian Country. Many tribal experts are not testifying to the actual upbringing, culture and worldview of the child and the child’s family, but to a cultural picture preferred by tribal government. Many are not necessarily testifying to what the child’s culture is, but to what the tribal government thinks the child’s culture should be.

ICWA violates and denies children’s and parents’ constitutional rights. ICWA provides procedural and substantive safeguards that protect the assumed sovereignty of tribal governments. In the process of protecting tribal sovereignty, the constitutional rights of children and families have been violated. NICWA claims ICWA recognizes “a parent’s constitutional right to care for their child and the child’s corresponding right to family integrity,” but many dissident tribal members and non-tribal extended family say their rights have been violated and their children harmed by the ICWA.

Almost all children fare better when placed with family, in community, and connected to the culture they feel most at home with. This is true for children of every heritage, as long as their family is healthy, loving and safe. Children do not fare better in homes where they are neglected or abused.
If it is unsafe for a child to stay in their families’ home, we agree with NICWA that the second best place for children is within their community and connected with the culture they are most familiar with. This is why it is so terrible when tribal leaders rip children out of their communities and culture and force them into situations that feel totally foreign to them. Children who have never been in Indian Country should not be forced into Indian Country.
However, it is also true that due to varied circumstances, not all children who have been raised in Indian Country can go home to their family or community.

• “Furthermore, these professionals believe that meth involvement increases the difficulty of family reunification” (Roe Bubar, 2007, p. 10).

Further, varied communications to CAICW and other anecdotal evidence reveal that not all children who live in Indian Country want to be there. Some children want to go live with relatives off the reservation. Some simply want out. Some have tried to run away off the reservation, only to be taken back by tribal police.

ICWA promotes connection to Indian culture, elders, and community. That is good. But some children do not want to live there. Not all children who fall under the jurisdiction of ICWA have been raised within Indian culture or community. Tribal culture and the reservation system is foreign to many, if not most, of the children who fall under the jurisdiction of ICWA. Further, some reservation communities are simply not safe, period. Congress does not have a right to force a particular culture or religion on an individual – and most certainly has no right to force culture or community on a child simply due to race or even political affiliation. When a law or program promotes a dogma with no regard for the factual needs of the individual child, that law or program is NOT promoting the best interest of that child – it is promoting the best interest of a political agenda or entity.
While ICWA does include language allowing state court judges to deviate from the requirements of ICWA when there is “good cause,” the ability to do so is severely limited by the 2016 BIA rules, which state:

• “Without a causal relationship…evidence that shows only the existence of community or family poverty, isolation, single parenthood, custodian age, crowded or inadequate housing, substance abuse, or nonconforming social behavior does not by itself constitute clear and convincing evidence or evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that continued custody is likely to result in serious emotional or physical damage to the child” (BIA, 2016, p. 23.121(d)).
• Further, “In determining whether good cause exists, the court must not consider” whether the child has already bonded with the family he/she is currently living with or whether the child has ever had any connection to the tribe” (BIA, 2016, p. 23.118(c)).
• Finally, “… In determining whether ICWA applies to a proceeding, the State court may not consider factors such as the participation of the parents or the Indian child in Tribal cultural, social, religious, or political activities, the relationship between the Indian child and his or her parents, whether the parent ever had custody of the child, or the Indian child’s blood quantum” (BIA, 2016, p. 23.103(c)).

In other words, tribal governments and the court system “can force children with even a slight Indian heritage into environments where poverty, crime, abuse, and suicides are rampant” (Flatten 2015). These truths are evidence that ICWA does NOT “balance the need for flexibility and individualized case-based decisions,” as NICWA claims.

ICWA itself is not based on race. ICWA applies to children who are eligible for political membership in a federally recognized tribe – and, as NICWA has noted, “does not apply to individuals who merely self-identify as American Indian or Alaska Native.”

• “According to the 2010 Census, there are approximately 5.2 million self-identified American Indian/Alaska Natives (AI/ANs) living in the US, of whom 2 million qualify for federal services” (Center for Native American Youth 2014). The enrolled, federally recognized AI/AN population is not 5.2 million, but only an estimated 2 million – those being the ones eligible for federal services.

Tribal governments are the sole determiners of the membership criteria. However, the membership criteria of most – if not all – tribal governments is based on heritage. If a tribal government has determined that blood lineage with a distant ancestor is all that is necessary for membership, the ICWA applies, regardless if the child, the child’s parents, or the child’s extended family want the tribal government to be involved in their lives. This child is therefore placed under ICWA’s jurisdiction due to their heritage – in other words, due to their “race.”
Further, while the ICWA itself states that it is not to be used in custody battles between parents, in practice, enrolled family members are frequently chosen over non-enrolled family members in custody battles; ie: a tribal parent is chosen over the non-tribal parent, or a tribal grandparent or aunt over a non-tribal relative. This has occurred even in cases where the tribal parent or relative has a criminal record and the non-tribal relative does not. In addition, many non-tribal parents and relatives have been threatened with ICWA by their tribal counterparts. In other words, tribal courts have not always followed the ‘word’ of the ICWA law, but instead, have followed what many believe to be the ‘heart’ of the ICWA law. Abundant anecdotal evidence of rulings in favor of tribal relatives at the expense of non-tribal relatives furthers the race-based impression of ICWA.

Tribal governments claim in congressional testimony and to the general public that they care deeply about the safety and well-being of their children and families. Yet, statistics, reports and documentation from tribal governments and their supporters, as well as anecdotal evidence from witnesses, show repeated placements of children into physically and emotionally dangerous environments, as well as repeated disregard for the factual needs of individual children.
To build a better future for children of every heritage, the experience, insight, and wisdom of those who factually know and love the individual children must be respected and included, and State child protection laws must be applied equally for children of every heritage.

• “…incidents of child maltreatment that occur under a tribe’s exclusive jurisdiction and where tribal services are provided are not necessarily reported to the state and included in national data systems” (NICWA 2015).
• “American Indian and Alaska Native populations have seen a 164% increase in the number of drug-related deaths from 3.9% in 1979-1981 to 10.3% 1998. The North Dakota Drug Threat Assessment of 2002 concluded that meth use and distribution was a problem in all reservations within the state” (U.S. National Drug Intelligence Center”(NDIC, 2002). (Roe Bubar 2007)
• “Wallace and Bachman (1991) found that almost half of Native American youth under the age of 17 drank alcohol or smoked marijuana, with a higher substance abuse rate for boys than for girls” (Roe Bubar 2007).
• “The addition of meth-exposed children to an already strained network of social services in tribal communities almost guarantees additional complications in educational, social, and medical services on the reservation” (Doney, 2006; U.S. Commission on Civil Rights [USCCR], 2003) (Roe Bubar 2007, 15-17).
• “According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 16 percent of students at Bureau of Indian Affairs schools in 2001 reported having attempted suicide in the preceding 12 months” (Center for Native American Youth 2011).
• “Recent research shows that while the US child mortality rate for children ages 1 to 14 has decreased by 9% since 2000, it has increased by 15% among AI/AN children (National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association)” and “Alcoholism mortality rates are 514% higher than the general population” (Center for Native American Youth 2014).
• “…a study of Native American sixth graders from one reservation found that 75% had clinically significant levels of PTSD” and “Researchers have reported a 14% prevalence rate of Major Depressive Disorder among AI/AN adolescents” (NICWA, SAMHSA 2014).
• “Indian children experience post-traumatic stress disorder at the same rate as veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and triple the rate of the general population” (Flatten 2015).
• “Native teens experience the highest rates of suicide of any population in the U.S.—at least 3.5 times higher than the national average.11 (NICWA, SAMHSA 2014).
• “Suicide is the second leading cause of death—2.5 times the national rate—for Native youth in the 15 to 24 year old age group” (Executive Office of the President 2014, 5).
• “These figures must be considered alongside the data describing child fatalities and incidence of child maltreatment in AI/AN families. This data is in line with data showing that AI/AN families are more likely to have child welfare involvement due to neglect and suggests a unique risk factor specific to AI/AN child fatalities. Given the multitude of potential responders, differences in how entities may determine child fatalities, and limited framework in Indian Country for investigating child fatalities, questions arise as to whether some of these accidents may be related to child neglect as opposed to tragic accidents” (NICWA 2015, 5).

ICWA is unworkable. It never has been workable; it never will be – because it forces itself on children and families who don’t want it, and we are United States citizens who love our children and will fight back to protect them. This is not a matter of the simple “noncompliance” tribal governments refer to. It is a matter of pure rebellion. We will never “comply” in handing over our defenseless children to a situation we know will hurt them. This is not “noncompliance,” it is civil resistance, and includes not only dissident persons of heritage and their extended families, but also certain attorneys, courts and social workers. This is not “noncompliance,” in the case of social workers and others hiding the heritage of a child; it is civil disobedience, and it will never stop because we love and care about children. It is a matter of families and people of good sense fighting back against a terrible law that is hurting our children. It is a matter of people pushing back out of true love and concern for children we know – children who have been victimized by this over-reaching, incomprehensible mandate. It is people attempting to protect the children they love from a bureaucracy and a political entity that do not know or love our children, but are using them as pawns in a political game. It is time for this particularly unjust social experiment to stop. ICWA is totally unworkable and will never work the way tribal governments want it to. They will end up going back to the federal government and again and again, trying to make the ICWA worse for us – but this will never stop us from fighting for our children.

Congress has unique authority over this issue. Tribes are legally ‘domestic dependents’ within the larger United States. Matters regarding tribes and tribal members are within the purview of the federal government. It is under Congressional authority that ICWA has been legislated.

The BIA rules and regulations are also Congressionally authorized. ICWA rules published in the federal register in June, 2016, by the BIA were based on the authority granted by Congress which states: “the Secretary shall promulgate such rules and regulations as may be necessary to carry out the provisions of this chapter.” Therefore, it is Congress’ responsibility to right this egregious wrong and protect our children.

“AI/AN children currently appear less likely to be adopted compared to White children. This positive finding, reported by CWLA (1999), may be due to the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA)” (Indian Country Child Trauma Center 2005).

Birthed by the biological parents of enrollable children, the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare was founded in February 2004. CAICW is a national non-profit Christian ministry and family advocate, which has ministered with music and teaching at churches in the U.S. and Canada as well as a children’s home and street ministry in Mexico. CAICW is both a judicial and educational advocacy for families at risk of – or hurt by – the Indian Child Welfare Act, as well as a prayer resource for families and a shoulder to cry on.

CAICW is not an adoption agency or a legal aide office, and 100% of staffing is volunteer.

References

BIA. (2016, 6 14). Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Proceedings. THE FEDERAL REGISTER, 25 CFR 23; RIN 1076-AF25(Document Citation: 81 FR 38777), 38777-38876 (100 pages). Retrieved 6 15, 2016, from FEDERAL REGISTER: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/06/14/2016-13686/indian-child-welfare-act-proceedings

Center for Native American Youth. (2011). Fast Facts on Native American Youth and Indian Country. Washington DC: Aspen Institute.

Center for Native American Youth. (2014). Fast Facts on Native American Youth and Indian Country. Washington DC: Aspen Institute.

Executive Office of the President. (2014). Native Youth Report. Washington DC: The White House.

Flatten, M. (2015). Death on a Reservation. Phoenix: Goldwater Institute. Retrieved 6 22, 2016, from http://goldwaterinstitute.org/en/work/topics/constitutional-rights/equal-protection/death-on-a-reservation/

Hallie Bongar White, J. L. (2014, April 21). INTERSECTION OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND CHILD VICTIMIZATION IN INDIAN COUNTRY. Retrieved July 28, 2016, from Justice.gov: https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/defendingchildhood/legacy/2014/04/21/intersection-dv-cpsa.pdf

Indian Country Child Trauma Center. (2005). Demographics. Oklahoma City: Indian Country Child Trauma Center. Retrieved July 27, 2016, from icctc.org: http://www.icctc.org/demographics-1.asp

NICWA. (2015). Testimony of Sarah L. Kastelic. Washington DC: Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities.

NICWA, SAMHSA. (2014, April). Native Children: Trauma and Its Effects. Trauma-Informed Care Fact Sheet. Portland: National Indian Child Welfare Association.

Richard G. Dudley, J. M. (2015, July). Childhood Trauma and Its Effects: Implications for Police. New Perspectives in Policing, pp. 1-22.

Roe Bubar, M. W. (2007). Perceptions of Methamphetamine Use in Three Western Tribal Communities: Implications for Child Abuse in Indian Country. West Hollywood: Tribal Law and Policy Institute.

Sullivan, T. (2013). 12th Mandated Report. Denver: ACF.

Sep 122016
 
Dew on a Rose

Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare Board of Directors Resolution 2016

WHEREAS, the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare was established in 2004 and is the oldest national organization defending the rights of children and families against the overreaching and unconstitutional Indian Child Welfare Act; and

WHEREAS, we, the members of the CAICW Board of Directors, do hereby establish and submit the following resolution; and

WHEREAS, Congress, working with tribal nations, tribal leadership, and advocates for tribal sovereignty – but with little input from enrollable individuals and families who have rejected the reservation system; enrollable individuals and families who have rejected tribal government jurisdiction; un-enrolled birth parents and extended families of all heritages; abused children without voice within the reservation system; and other stake-holders directly affected by the law – passed the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) in 1978 under the premise of stopping a “wholesale removal of Indian children by public and private agencies, taking 25-35% of all Indian children from their homes, families, and communities;” and

WHEREAS, families, social workers, medical professionals, government officials, law enforcement and abused children have reported to CAICW board members that there are frequently not enough safe homes to place children on many reservations, and when lacking a safe home, some tribal leaders have opted to place children in dangerous homes rather than place them off the reservation; and

WHEREAS, more than 75% of persons with tribal heritage do NOT live in Indian Country according to the 2000 and 2010 U.S. Census’, and many tribal members have taken their children and purposefully left Indian Country due to the high incidence of crime and corruption within the reservation system; and

WHEREAS, it is held by CAICW that more children have left the reservation system in the company of their families who had made a personal decision to leave than have been removed by social services; and

WHEREAS, once off the reservation, many families consider themselves dissidents and do not want their children returned to the reservation system or to be under the jurisdiction of what they know to be a corrupt tribal government; and

WHEREAS, a coalition of leading national child welfare organizations has agreed it is in every child’s best interest to be protected from harm and to prevent the unnecessary trauma that occurs when children are removed from their family, culture, and community; and

WHEREAS, tribal leaders have demanded the removal of many children from their families, culture and communities off the reservation, under the premise they are better off on the reservation even if they have never lived there before, have never been part of the tribal community there, and don’t know anyone there; and

WHEREAS, many organizations, state governments, members of Congress, and tens of thousands of AI/AN individuals have opposed ICWA and repudiate the claim it is an essential and effective policy that protects the best interest of AI/AN children; and

WHEREAS, early application and consistent compliance with state laws governing child protection and family unity – without any application of or concern for ICWA – prevents frivolous removals of AI/AN children from their family by tribal governments and promotes stable placements for AI/AN children in loving, permanent homes, connected to the factual family and factual culture in which they have been raised and/or are most comfortable; and

WHEREAS, early application and consistent compliance with state laws governing child protection and family unity allows for the best probability of equal protection for children of every heritage as well as an increased probability that children will be able to remain within the factual family, culture and community the child is most familiar with and/or most comfortable with, whatever form that culture and community that might be; and

WHEREAS, current research shows that family, culture, and community promote resiliency and healthy development in AI/AN youth and in all youth of every heritage; and it is in their best interest to remain within the culture and community they have been raised in and/or feel most comfortable with; and

WHEREAS, AI/AN children continue to be taken from the only homes they know by tribal governments at alarming rates, often against the wishes of the child’s birth family, and due largely to misapplication, ignorance, or willful non-compliance with the mandates of ICWA by many tribal governments, tribal social services, and tribal courts, including § 1903 (2) – the definition of extended family member, which does not mandate tribal heritage; and § 1903 (1)(iv) – where ICWA is not to be used to award custody to one of parent against the other, and most notably, as the base reason for choosing an enrolled parent over an un-enrolled parent; and

WHEREAS, a 16-yr-old girl called CAICW from a Michigan reservation stating she felt trapped and neither the tribal police nor judge would allow her to leave her father’s home and go live with her mother off the reservation; and

WHEREAS, a 12-yr-old girl from a Minnesota reservation stated she has been abused and wants to leave, but feels trapped, and the tribal social services has sided with her care-taker; and

WHEREAS, a mother living on a Washington State reservation told CAICW she feels trapped with her children on the reservation and unable to leave without the tribe’s ICWA social worker taking her children away from her, as had been done to her in the past; and

WHEREAS, a North Dakota mother has stated to CAICW she does not want to go before the tribal judge as she does not believe she will obtain justice; and

WHEREAS, hundreds of individuals and families have contacted CAICW since 2004 with their personal stories concerning what they felt was abuse by tribal government and/or feeling trapped within Indian Country as a result of the ICWA, and these individuals and families have represented multiple backgrounds and heritages from across the nation; and

WHEREAS, the Cherokee Nation Attorney General stated in 2012 they have over 100 attorneys targeting over 1000 children across the nation, and many of these children had little if any factual connection to the Cherokee Nation, other than a distant relative generations past; and

WHEREAS, despite these troubling numbers, calls for action from across the nation, and consistent and shocking reports of widespread abuse and even murder of children who had been moved from their safe and loving homes and placed into dangerous homes under the auspices of ICWA, federal agencies have recently and inexplicably acted to increase ICWA implementation against Indian children and families; and

WHEREAS, appropriate opposition to ICWA has risen in the form of litigation, information campaigns with Congress, and attempts to draw media attention to increasingly tragic events and as well as the racist nature of the ICWA, which, despite claims it is not based on race, targets children of heritage; and

WHEREAS, those in opposition to ICWA are advocating on behalf of Indian children and for the best interest of Indian children – who are many times their very own children from within their very own birth families, extended families and communities – and therefore rightfully and thoroughly refuse counsel or permission from overreaching, self-professed ‘Indian Country experts,’ national Native organizations, or any individual tribe that does not have direct connection and personal knowledge of their children and families or been invited to participate in the custody action; and

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that CAICW recognizes and firmly supports the full repeal of ICWA and opposes any further federal or State efforts to force ICWA compliance and implementation; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that CAICW pledges to work hand-in-hand with every AI/AN family and non-Indian family that presents to CAICW requesting assistance, and all supporters, to vigorously fight ICWA in the courtroom, state house, and Congress to protect AI/AN children and their families from the harmful effects of arrogant and autocratic tribal governments and ICWA; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that this resolution shall be the policy of CAICW until it is withdrawn or modified by subsequent resolution.

CERTIFICATION. The members of the Board of Directors of the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare do hereby adopt the foregoing resolution and direct that this resolution be entered in the record of board work. The foregoing resolution was adopted by the CAICW Board of Directors through electronic vote on this day 5 of September, 2016.