April 21, 2011
I am a non Tribal mother of a Native American daughter. This has been a battle of 14, nearly 15 years now. I’ve felt so alone over these years, and due to my experiences and feelings have decided it is time to reach out to the other parents like me, to help protect the children like my daughter.
I became pregnant at 16. During my pregnancy her paternal (tribal) grandmother tried to convince me to give her up for adoption to her. I refused. The day she was born, her father would not sign her birth certificate. I stayed together with him until she was nearly 2. He was abusive to me, he was doing drugs and drinking. He had a very short temper. He even attacked me at work. I tried to make it work for her sake, which was a mistake. Thinking maybe if I could force him to go to therapy he would get better. Then one day he turned his anger towards her. That was the last day.
I left him that day, and would not allow him to be alone with her. Because I did not trust him, I set arrangements for him to see her at his mother’s house on pre-arranged dates. The first few visits he was there when I brought her there. After that he wasn’t. His mother told me “It hurts him too much to see you, so he went for a walk, he’ll be back after you leave” Like an idiot 19 year old girl, I believed the woman. It later came out in the open that he had run off to San Francisco to follow his dream of being a homeless drugged out bike messenger. Which later in life is referred to in all legal proceedings as his “Spiritual Journey”.
When she was 5, the state took him to court to establish paternity. They issued a warrant for his arrest for the genetic testing. They actually had to arrest him and bring him in against his will. Once paternity was established, he was a no show for court to sign the papers. The judge had to sign it for him, which by US Citizen law, negates your parental rights.
He was absent from her life with the exception of an occasional Christmas or Thanksgiving – Which he attended to get free stuff, for 5 years. No phone calls, no visits. Nothing. (No child support, but we managed to live with me working 2 or 3 jobs at a time) He started doing something called “Canoe Journey” which I made sure that my daughter could go to when the grandmother asked if she could go. I even volunteered as class mom for all school Tribal functions, making sure that the Native American students could go to the big meets. If I hadn’t have done that none of those children would have been able to go.
Then, one day I get a knock on the door. my daughter’s Uncles are sitting there with a camera and big grins laughing , they say “You’ve been served” and take my photo as they hand me the papers. This is how I found out that her father was filing for custody.
The first court hearing went in my favor. The judge reviewed the case, recognized it as he was the judge that signed the paternity and threw it out. He told my daughter’s dad that he expected him to turn his life around before he would even grant visitation, that he expected child support payments, anger management courses and clean urinalysis.
The Tribe appealed the case, which I state this way as 30 or 40 Tribal members showed up in the court room the next day, they even pushed and shoved at me as I tried to walk through the door into the court room.
We went through 4 extremely painful months of custody battle, during which a Guardian Ad Litem was assigned to research the case. During the case, hundreds of “Declarations” were produced by the tribe, attesting to my inability to parent stating things like that I had “Fecal matter spread on the walls” or that I “Partied and brought different men home every night”. They even had the audacity to claim that I am abusive to my daughter. None of these things are true. The odd thing about it all, as I had never even heard of any of these “People” that wrote the declarations, and they all seemed to be written in a variation of 3 or 4 different styles of handwriting.
The Guardian Ad Litem did a very scrutinizing investigation. She concluded that my daughter was best living with me, that she and I had one of the closest most loving relationships she had seen between a parent and child, that she had a wonderful home and a strong support structure. That her father had anger management problems, that he had failed his Urinalysis both the first and the second time, that his home was unfit structurally and sanitarily for a child, and that my daughter seemed to barely even know him. Her advice was for my daughter to stay living with me, for her father to take anger management courses, attend drug and alcohol therapy, get his life in order, THEN start visitation with our daughter under supervision.
The judge threw out her assessment. Why assign a Guardian Ad Litem to a case if you are going to throw it out if it is in the Non Tribal parent’s favor? Was it just to make me spend another $2,200? Was he hoping she would dig up dirt on me?
Needless to say, my daughter, now 14 has been living on the reservation since then. It’s been 5 years. ICW has taken her from her father’s house 3 times now, that I know of. They refuse to give her back to me. They have no just cause for this. They have stated to me they will never place her back in my home because I am not a Tribal Family Member. When they took her, for ABUSE allegations from her father I tried to work through real CPS that would never let this happen. Real CPS informed me that the only way they can get her back for me is if my daughter calls 911 or is hospitalized from the abuse.
Last night I found out that the reason I have been unable to reach my daughter or any of her paternal family for the past 3 weeks is that ICW took her from her father’s home and placed her with her grandmother. Again. They did not contact me. Again. My daughter had to sneak to the computer and email me, when she had been told not to contact me. Again.