The Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare, an advocacy and ministry, was co-founded by Roland Morris, an enrolled member of the Minnesota Chippewa tribe. Roland was born and raised on the Leech Lake Reservation in 1945 and spoke only Ojibwe until he started kindergarten. But he as an adult, he made a personal choice not to raise his children there.
Later in life, out of concern for things he had witnessed and experienced, he founded CAICW.
CAICW does not handle adoptions or place children in any homes. It has never been a social service agency or facilitated any kind of placement at all. It is simply an advocacy – an ear to listen, understand and assist as able.
As an advocacy, it has served families of all heritages and children of all ages – the oldest child being sixteen and held on a Michigan reservation against her will. The point has been to keep children in the homes where they want to be – in the homes they feel safe and loved, no matter the heritage. Sometimes this means the home of the birth parent. Sometimes it is the home of an extended family member. Other times, it is a foster or adoptive home that the child feels safest in. CAICW has served all families to this end, regardless of heritage, religion, income or location.
Most often, CAICW deals with children who have been taken to a reservation against their will. This is not because CAICW has a set standard against reservations. It is because that is the direction most children are pulled. According to the last two U.S. censuses – 75% of tribal members do not live in Indian Country. Many have never lived in Indian Country.
Sometimes abuse is what the child is afraid of on the reservation. Other times – it is simply that they don’t know anyone there and want to stay in the communities where they feel comfortable. Other times – the parents or grandparents have decided that they don’t want their children to live within the reservation system.
In the spring of 2017, CAICW assisted a birth mom enrolled at the Spirit Lake reservation by driving her to her visitations at Spirit Lake. CAICW also helped with her initial attorney’s fees. Her baby had been taken from her just after birth. She had told the county social worker that she did not want her baby taken to the reservation. She had chosen to leave Spirit Lake because she had been treated badly and didn’t trust the tribal government or the social services. Against the ICWA law – the county gave her baby to the tribal social services anyway.
A mother enrolled at Leech Lake asked for CAICW’s help in getting her 7-yr-old son returned from the custody of her half-brother, who had made untrue allegations and told her she could never have her son back again. This child was successfully returned to his mother.
There are also cases that involve non-tribal relatives. A grandmother in Colorado was told by the Warm Springs tribe that she could not keep her 7-yr-old grandson, who had lived with her for several years. They told her she could not keep him because she was ‘white.’ The grandson was not eligible for enrollment, but tribal government staff falsified a birth certificate, making it appear that the tribal grandmother was the mother – thus giving him more blood quantum. The county attorney and social workers told the family to give up. They were told they cannot win this.
Fortunately, CAICW was able to get the family a consultation with a very good attorney who gave them information they needed to represent themselves. They were able to prove the birth certificate was false – as well as educate the judge concerning what the ICWA said concerning grandparents. They won and retained custody of their grandson.
Two board members of CAICW are former ICWA children. Both, from two different reservations in two different areas of the country, fought to return to the homes where they felt loved and wanted after having been taken to a reservation. Both had been placed in the homes of relatives on the reservation where they were severely abused. Both tried running away but were prevented. One made it all the way back to her former home one rainy night – but was picked up by the police and returned again to the home where she was being abused. Their hearts go out to other children who are in situations similar to theirs.
Over half of CAICW’S clients are tribal members or the relatives of tribal members. All participants and members through the years have found CAICW online and requested assistance. CAICW does not look for clients or advertise for them.
CAICW has a limited budget and staff – and does what it can, when it can, for whom it can in the form of advocacy and guidance.
CAICW bases everything it writes and shares on documented facts – many of the facts coming directly from federal and tribal government entities and organizations. CAICW sites sources that include the U.S. Dept of Justice, the BIA, ACF, HHS, varied tribal governments, NICWA, and even Obama’s White House. CAICW encourages anyone who questions the facts to contact them directly. CAICW gladly shares source documents.
The work of this ministry/advocacy isn’t easy. It comes with a lot of abuse from opponents. Also, for a long period of time in 2013-2014, attacks to the website by hackers were frequent. A lot of volunteer time was wasted trying to prevent them or fix damage from successful hacks. This was resolved by blocking IP’s that attempted to login or made other clear indications of a hack attempt.
CAICW has no paid staff. There is no money involved in this advocacy. Everything is done volunteer. While not easy, this is preferred, given false claims by the opposition that CAICW is centered around making money. It is also preferred in that – there is no motivation to keep the status quo. CAICW wants things to improve and has no financial stake in keeping things the same.
In fact, should goals be met and there is no longer a need for this advocacy – staff would be very happy to close up and move on. There are so many things to do in this world – finishing this task to the end and knowing it is truly done would be an incredible blessing.
But as it is – people continue to contact CAICW and ask for help. As long as children need help – CAICW will continue, no matter what.
The appreciation from families who have been helped makes all the difficulties worth it.