June 9, 2006
We have lived this problem! We live in Virginia and were foster parents. A 15 month old little boy came to us. He was under nourished and had been taken from his alcoholic parents by force. It was clear that there had been much turmoil in this little boy’s life because he was very frightened of people and loud noises. He bonded well to me, foster mom, and would cry for me even when I took a shower. I quite my part time job because it seemed his need for me was greater than our families need of the extra income.
Mom was unable to stay sober and finish a treatment program. Dad was able to stay sober but struggled with schizophrenia and committed suicide. We asked to adopt our foster son. That is when we found out that he is 1/32 Muscogee Creek on mom’s side. She wanted him to go to one of her siblings. Home studies reviled alcoholism in each of those families. Birth mom never registered with her tribe, never lived on a reservation and did not introduce her Indian heritage to her other children at any time. This was a loop hole for her to exploit. There was a third cousin of our foster son’s grandfather who was in her 60’s. She lived in Colorado with her husband and adopted teenage son. They wanted our foster son who was at this time two and a half.
Thankfully the county has a psychologist interview us with our foster son and had the cousin fly in and be observed with our foster son alone on two occasions. We went to court with a VERY expensive lawyer to fight against the county and the cousin for custody of our foster son. It was very tense and difficult for all involved. The judge had never known of the ICWA. The outcome was that, by the grace of God, we were our foster son’s legal guardians. The judge was not comfortable in letting us adopt thus severing the mother’s parental rights completely. We have struggle financially after the extreme legal costs but we have a wonderful 8 year old little boy.
We have kept him in contact with his half siblings as well as the cousin in Colorado. We have also made sure we educate him regarding his Indian heritage. My guess would be that he is more in touch with his Indian heritage than any of his half siblings. We are very thankful that we had a judge who kept the child’s best interest as the focus. We are probably lucky that no one had ever dealt with the ICWA before so were not afraid of it before we began.
We had no idea that many other people were suffering because of this Act. We will keep you all in our prayers. Please keep up the good work. No one wants to take away these children’s Indian heritage but shouldn’t best interest of the child always be most important?