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/

Foster Care Exec Gives PC Excuse for Support of BIA Rules

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May 282015
 

This is the response by an executive on the board of more than one Foster Care Association after a tribal member – from a family terribly hurt by ICWA – asked why her association had signed on in support of the unconstitutional, ill-thought and emotionally destructive BIA Rules for ICWA.

This executive’s response does not address the concerns brought to her attention by the tribal member. It reflects the rhetoric pushed by tribal leaders, NICWA, NARF and the Casey Foundation, with little thought or regard for fact and the true needs of individual children. It appears that expediency – making her job and that of others in the industry easier – is much more important than addressing the individual and critical needs of hurting children.

This is the type of rhetoric that needs to be brought to light and shown for what it is – in order for persons in this woman’s position to begin to correct themselves and look at children of heritage as something other than expendable.

Placing children into safe homes – meeting their immediate needs in a timely and nurturing manner – a manner equal to that of children of every other heritage – is never “inappropriate.”

For people in her position to assume that any child with even the smallest amount of tribal heritage “needs” to be under tribal government jurisdiction and control – overlooking the reality of non-tribal relatives, lack of existing relationship with Indian Country, and even strong familial opposition to tribal government’s world-view – is the epitome of racism.

But – this is an example of the type of response commonly received from many who sit in similar positions.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Date: May 28, 2015 at 1:24:16 PM CDT
Subject: NFPA Response
From: Irene Clements

Dear Ms. XXXXXX,
Thank you for contacting the National Foster Parent Association.

The National Foster Parent Association (NFPA) believes that children belong with their birth families (parents or relatives) whenever safely possible and when that is not possible, that the children are served in family foster homes and/or placed into adoption when appropriate. NFPA does not endorse group or congregate care that is not short-term or treatment related.

NFPA signed on to a letter of general suppoprt to proposed regulations/guidelines developed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) because the current ICWA regulations were passed in 1979 and are in desperate need of revision. Regulations that are nearly 40 years old are not current nor do they reflect current child welfare best practice in general. We support that new regulations/guidelines are important and necesary at this point in time.

Part of the problems over the past years hav been created by some states not following current ICWA laws and not doing due diligence on children as they are identified as members of a tribe and need out of home placement. Also, the tribes have historically not had appropriate funding to implement adequate foster care services. At this time, Title IV-E funds are available to assist tribes in this endeavor.

We believe if there is a proper due diliegnce provided by the state prior to a long term placement of tribal children, there will be less disruptions for the child. We hope that the new regulations will stop the inappropriate placement of children until all possible birth or kinship families within the tribe are explored.

Irene Clements
Executive Director, National Foster Parent Association
Public Policy Chair, Texas Foster Family Association
Chair, EveryChild, Inc Board of Directors
Foster Care Consultant

Background Checks in Indian Country Passes Committee

 Comments Off on Background Checks in Indian Country Passes Committee
Feb 042015
 
Senator John Hoeven

Senator Hoeven’s bill “To amend the Indian Child Protection and Family Violence Prevention Act to require background checks before foster care placements are ordered in tribal court proceedings” passed its 3rd reading and will be headed to the floor. It might take a little while to get there as so many other things are being discussed and worked on right now.

Please read the bill and comment. If you have questions, please contact your Senator and ask. It is important for your Senators to know this bill is important to you. If they don’t know anything about the bill, ask them to contact Elizabeth Frei in Senator Hoeven’s office to find the answers you need.

We are concerned about the two year wait to have child protection implemented…but look forward to hearing your thoughts.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Direct Link:

https://www.congress.gov/114/bills/s184/BILLS-114s184is.pdf

[Congressional Bills 114th Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]
[S. 184 Introduced in Senate (IS)]

114th CONGRESS
1st Session
S. 184

To amend the Indian Child Protection and Family Violence Prevention Act
to require background checks before foster care placements are ordered
in tribal court proceedings, and for other purposes.

_______________________________________________________________________

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

January 16, 2015

Mr. Hoeven (for himself and Mr. Tester) introduced the following bill;
which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Indian Affairs

_______________________________________________________________________

A BILL

To amend the Indian Child Protection and Family Violence Prevention Act
to require background checks before foster care placements are ordered
in tribal court proceedings, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the
United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the “Native American Children’s Safety
Act”.

SEC. 2. CRIMINAL RECORDS CHECKS.

Section 408 of the Indian Child Protection and Family Violence
Prevention Act (25 U.S.C. 3207) is amended by adding at the end the
following:
“(d) By Tribal Social Services Agency for Foster Care Placements
in Tribal Court Proceedings.–
“(1) Definitions.–In this subsection:
“(A) Covered individual.–The term `covered
individual’ includes–
“(i) any individual 18 years of age or
older; and
“(ii) any individual who the tribal social
services agency determines is subject to a
criminal records check under paragraph (2)(A).
“(B) Foster care placement.–The term `foster care
placement’ means any action removing an Indian child
from a parent or Indian custodian for temporary
placement in a foster home or institution or the home
of a guardian or conservator if–
“(i) the parent or Indian custodian cannot
have the child returned on demand; and
“(ii)(I) parental rights have not been
terminated; or
“(II) parental rights have been terminated
but the child has not been permanently placed.
“(C) Indian custodian.–The term `Indian
custodian’ means any Indian–
“(i) who has legal custody of an Indian
child under tribal law or custom or under State
law; or
“(ii) to whom temporary physical care,
custody, and control has been transferred by
the parent of the child.
“(D) Parent.–The term `parent’ means–
“(i) any biological parent of an Indian
child; or
“(ii) any Indian who has lawfully adopted
an Indian child, including adoptions under
tribal law or custom.
“(E) Tribal court.–The term `tribal court’ means
a court–
“(i) with jurisdiction over foster care
placements; and
“(ii) that is–
“(I) a Court of Indian Offenses;
“(II) a court established and
operated under the code or custom of an
Indian tribe; or
“(III) any other administrative
body of an Indian tribe that is vested
with authority over foster care
placements.
“(F) Tribal social services agency.–The term
`tribal social services agency’ means the agency of an
Indian tribe that has the primary responsibility for
carrying out foster care licensing or approval (as of
the date on which the proceeding described in paragraph
(2)(A) commences) for the Indian tribe.
“(2) Criminal records check before foster care
placement.–
“(A) In general.–Except as provided in paragraph
(3), no foster care placement shall be finally approved
and no foster care license shall be issued until the
tribal social services agency–
“(i) completes a criminal records check of
each covered individual who resides in the
household or is employed at the institution in
which the foster care placement will be made;
and
“(ii) concludes that each covered
individual described in clause (i) meets such
standards as the Indian tribe shall establish
in accordance with subparagraph (B).
“(B) Standards of placement.–The standards
described in subparagraph (A)(ii) shall include–
“(i) requirements that each tribal social
services agency described in subparagraph (A)–
“(I) perform criminal records
checks, including fingerprint-based
checks of national crime information
databases (as defined in section
534(f)(3) of title 28, United States
Code);
“(II) check any abuse registries
maintained by the Indian tribe; and
“(III) check any child abuse and
neglect registry maintained by the
State in which the covered individual
resides for information on the covered
individual, and request any other State
in which the covered individual resided
in the preceding 5 years, to enable the
tribal social services agency to check
any child abuse and neglect registry
maintained by that State for such
information; and
“(ii) any other additional requirement
that the Indian tribe determines is necessary
and permissible within the existing authority
of the Indian tribe, such as the creation of
voluntary agreements with State entities in
order to facilitate the sharing of information
related to the performance of criminal records
checks.
“(C) Results.–Except as provided in paragraph
(3), no foster care placement shall be ordered in any
proceeding described in subparagraph (A) if an
investigation described in clause (i) of that
subparagraph reveals that a covered individual
described in that clause has been found by a Federal,
State, or tribal court to have committed any crime
listed in clause (i) or (ii) of section 471(a)(20)(A)
of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 671(a)(20)(A)).
“(3) Emergency placement.–Paragraph (2) shall not apply
to an emergency foster care placement, as determined by a
tribal social services agency.
“(4) Recertification of foster homes or institutions.–
“(A) In general.–Not later than 2 years after the
date of enactment of this subsection, each Indian tribe
shall establish procedures to recertify homes or
institutions in which foster care placements are made.
“(B) Contents.–The procedures described in
subparagraph (A) shall include, at a minimum, periodic
intervals at which the home or institution shall be
subject to recertification to ensure–
“(i) the safety of the home or institution
for the Indian child; and
“(ii) that each covered individual who
resides in the home or is employed at the
institution is subject to a criminal records
check in accordance with this subsection,
including any covered individual who–
“(I) resides in the home or is
employed at the institution on the date
on which the procedures established
under subparagraph (A) commences; and
“(II) did not reside in the home
or was not employed at the institution
on the date on which the investigation
described in paragraph (2)(A)(i) was
completed.
“(C) Guidance issued by the secretary.–The
procedures established under subparagraph (A) shall be
subject to any regulation or guidance issued by the
Secretary that is in accordance with the purpose of
this subsection.
“(5) Guidance.–Not later than 2 years after the date of
enactment of this subsection and after consultation with Indian
tribes, the Secretary shall issue guidance regarding–
“(A) procedures for a criminal records check of
any covered individual who–
“(i) resides in the home or is employed at
the institution in which the foster care
placement is made after the date on which the
investigation described in paragraph (2)(A)(i)
is completed; and
“(ii) was not the subject of an
investigation described in paragraph (2)(A)(i)
before the foster care placement was made;
“(B) self-reporting requirements for foster care
homes or institutions in which any covered individual
described in subparagraph (A) resides if the head of
the household or the operator of the institution has
knowledge that the covered individual–
“(i) has been found by a Federal, State,
or tribal court to have committed any crime
listed in clause (i) or (ii) of section
471(a)(20)(A) of the Social Security Act (42
U.S.C. 671(a)(20)(A)); or
“(ii) is listed on a registry described in
clause (II) or (III) of paragraph (2)(B)(i);
“(C) promising practices used by Indian tribes to
address emergency foster care placement procedures
under paragraph (3); and
“(D) procedures for certifying compliance with
this Act.”.

Jun 092013
 

Forlorn home #2On the same day of the same year that Roland J. Morris, Sr. passed, a drug and  alcohol addicted infant was born from the same reservation that Roland called home. The biological parents of this infant wanted nothing to do with it. Just as with the many previous babies that they had created, this baby was “claimed” by a blood relative who wanted the baby for the welfare check to support it.

A few months later, the relative “gave” this baby to a couple to “raise as their own.” All of this took place WITHOUT THE TRIBE OR A SOCIAL WORKER INVOLVED and the blood relative kept the check. On the reservation this is a common practice. It is called “a traditional adoption,” and they say, “what we do with our children is no one else’s
business.”

The baby was loved and tenderly cared for while experiencing withdrawals from the drugs and alcohol it was subjected to in utero. The new parents taught the child the Ojibwe language and culture. No social workers ever checked on the child and the blood relative continued to get the check. All was well. This child was very well loved. And the child adored her traditionally adopted parents.Child

But one day eight years later, the blood relative became frightened that if this illegal situation was exposed the check might be lost, so the child was unwillfully abducted and returned to the blood relative. Now the child is not allowed to see or speak to the adoptive family and the tribal government supports the blood relative. The adoptive parents and the child suffer to this day.

In honor of Roland, on the birthday of this child, let us pray.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

PLEASE pray with us Sunday evening at 9pm ET, 8pm CT, 7pm MT, and 6pm PT – This Sunday on our minds:

  • remembering Roland’s passing and the children he left behind,
  • a little girl struggling on his reservation,
  • another little girl fighting to stay with the only family she feels safe with,
  • a little girl caught in the middle of a Supreme Court fight,
  • ….and hope for God’s redemption in Indian Country.

If you feel led, please join us every Sunday evening, each of in our own space, praying for help, healing, and Ephesians 6: 10-20.

Please share this with others who may be interested in helping.

https://caicw.org/2013/05/05/please-pray-with-us-every-sunday-9pm-et-8pm-ct-7pm-mt-6pm-pt/

 

 

Dr. Phil Show Spurs Controversy–Sheds Light on the Negative Effects of ICWA

 Comments Off on Dr. Phil Show Spurs Controversy–Sheds Light on the Negative Effects of ICWA
Dec 312012
 

by Elizabeth Sharon Morris

“They just took my baby after 3 years…her sobbing is forever etched in my soul. She wanted us to save her and we couldn’t. Devastated.”

An adoptive mother contacted CAICW on Facebook with this message at 1 am on Saturday, November 20, 2010, just hours after losing her little girl.  CAICW cried with her.  Why was this little girl, who screamed for her adoptive father to help her, taken – while he collapsed on the lawn, sobbing in grief?

Because she had tribal heritage.

While many argue that it is right and good that children of Native heritage be removed from non-Indian homes and turned over to tribal governments, many others question the policy. In this case, just five months after the little girl was taken, social services called the adoptive parents and asked if they would come and get her—immediately.  Apparently the home she had been taken to “didn’t work out,” so now it was OK for her to return to the home they had torn her from just a few months prior. Of course, her parents immediately dropped everything to drive the two hours to get their little girl. When she saw them, the little girl threw herself into their arms and asked if she could finally “go home.”

On Friday, October 19, 2012, Indian Country Today (ICT) reported on the “Veronica” episode of a Dr. Phil Show that had aired the day before. ICT claimed that the show “attacked the ICWA, and undermined the significance of Native children remaining in their tribe and being immersed in their culture.”  It also announced a grassroots Facebook campaign to boycott the “Anti-Native American” Dr. Phil Show. The mission of the campaign ICT says, “is to hold Dr. Phil McGraw accountable by boycotting until he agrees to have a show where QUALIFIED experts discuss ICWA’s importance.”

This is an interesting demand, considering the fact that there were two qualified “experts” on the set that day: Cherokee Nation Attorney Chrissi Nimmo and Judge Les Marston. Furthermore, Terry Cross of the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) had been invited too, but declined to appear.

As a birth mother to children who are 50 percent tribal, I flatly refute claims by the tribal establishment that every single child of heritage “needs them.”  No “tribal expert” knows our family or can speak for us. It is a myth that all tribal members want or need to be a part of Indian Country. Tribal members are individuals with their own minds and hearts.

The U.S. census shows that 75 percent of tribal members live off reservation.  Some remain connected to Indian Country, but many extended families mainstreamed a long time ago. Many reject reservation life for the same reason our family does: it isn’t a safe place. Even though we love our extended family that live on the reservation, we choose not to live under a corrupt tribal government in a tract house surrounded by drugs, alcohol and violence. Not every Native person wants to live in or have their children exposed to these conditions.

Furthermore, most “enrollable” children have more than one heritage. This means that they have more than one family, more than one traditional culture, multiple people who love them, and no heritage is more or less important than another.

Tribal governments are now using the ICWA as a weapon to steal the rights and best interests of children, women and families across this country. Make no mistake—the Cherokee Nation alone has more than 100 attorneys targeting 1500 children across the United States who are in the process of being adopted. Many of these children, like Veronica, have less than 5 percent Cherokee heritage. Even that small heritage in many cases comes from families who at some point made deliberate CHOICES to leave Indian Country.

Has God used CAICW to impact you or a loved one in 2012?

Consider impacting someone else by giving a gift

Nov 222011
 

Washington DC Teach-In:

The goal of our meetings throughout the week in DC was to let people know what we are about and to invite them to the

Dr. William Allen, Emeritus Professor, Political Science, MSU and former Chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (1989),

Dr. William B. Allen

Teach-in on Friday. We had wonderful speakers lined up for the event, including a mom who is on the verge of losing her daughter – a little girl of LESS than 1% heritage.

After years of practice, we’ve finally figured out that taking four days to visit Congressional offices is way to go. Monday, we focused on the Hart building, with some in Dirksen. Tuesday, Rayburn. Wednesday, Russell and Dirksen, and Thursday, Cannon and Longworth. LOTS less running around and back and forth, and we were able to take time to bop into various extra offices in between the scheduled meetings. We’ll make this into a science yet – (well, I suppose it was already made into an art by lobbyists long ago)

Sarah and I had four meetings scheduled the first day, Monday. While listing names and associations might seem dull, I want to give you all the information so you can make personal decisions about whether or not to contact someone. If you would like me to write more about my poor choice in motel, having to spend $30 in taxi fees a day just to get to a Metro station, or what it is like to ride the underground metro after the taxi driver letting you off tells you that he would never allow his mother to wait at this particular station alone, just let me know.

We began our day with Kawe Mossman-Saafi in Senator Inouye’s office. Senator Inouye (Hawaii) is on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA) as well as the ‘adoption caucus’ – the Congressional Coalition on Adoption (CCA). The meeting with Ms. Mossman-Saafi went well. She had been unaware of these things happening to children under the Indian Child Welfare Act, was very kind and interested, and agreed something needs to be done.

We next met with Kathryn Hitch in Senator Crapo’s office (Idaho), who is also on the SCIA.  This meeting also went well and she told us she would be coming to the teach-in on Friday.

We had a little time before the next meeting, so we dropped into Senator Bingaman’s office and visited with Casey O’Neil. If you live in New Mexico, please call him and tell him about ICWA. He was very nice but needs some help understanding the issue.

Jayne Davis was the aide for Senator Conrad, ND. (SCIA & CCA) She read up on us before hand and had a good idea of why we were there. She was very friendly and agreed to come on Friday.

We thought we had good meeting with Kenneth Martin and Sarah Butrum in South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson’s office (SCIA & CCA). Although he said there is no stomach in Congress to change ICWA, he assured us that either he or his aide, Sarah, would be at the Teach-in on Friday.

That day we also made unscheduled visits to the offices of Senator Akaka (SCIA & CCA), Lieberman (CCA), Rubio, Barrasso (SCIA), Murkowski (SCIA & CCA), and Franken (SCIA).

The aide for Senator Barrasso (WY),Travis McNiven, was extremely friendly and surprisingly apologetic. He said he had intended to get hold of us for an appointment but hadn’t had a chance. He was glad that we had stopped in and asked us to send him a legislative draft, which I did when I got back to the motel that evening.  Senator Rubio’s aide, Jonathan Baselice was also very friendly.

In all, we went to eleven offices on Monday. At a few of the unscheduled visits, there was no aide to meet with so we briefly explained that the Teach-in is an opportunity to discuss the ICWA problems as a community, and then left some information and an invitation to the event.

We started Tuesday meeting with Michele Bachmann’s staff at 10am. Rep. Bachmann’s office is extremely supportive of our efforts and has said they will co-sponsor legislation that will protect children better. Katie Poedtke was our contact this day, and gave us the list of members of the adoption caucus (CCA), which was great to use for unscheduled visits. Rep. Bachmann co-chairs the CCA.  She is not, however, on the House Subcommittee on Indian/Alaskan Native Affairs (SIANA)

We stopped in at offices for Rep’s Don Young (SIANA), Denny Rehberg, Dan Boren (SIANA), Dale Kildee (SIANA), Ed Markey (SIANA) and Jim Sensenbrenner (CCA).

On Wednesday it was back to the Senate offices. This was our day to meet with Senator Hoeven’s staff.  They had been very helpful in assisting us to set up the Teach-in and were very attentive during our this meeting. Deputy Chief of Staff Ryan Bernstein asked several very good questions about ICWA. Sara Egeland, our contact for setting up the Teach-in, was also at there.

Unscheduled visits included Senator’s Burr (CCA), McCain (SCIA & CCA), Snowe (CCA), Blunt (CCA), Rand Paul, and John Thune (CCA). Per the request of one mom, we made sure to drop a packet of letters for her Senator, Jim DeMint (SC).  He is also a member of the CCA.  I was able to meet with Senator Inhofe’s aide, Ellen Brown, briefly.  Senator Inhofe (OK) is another co-chair to the CCA. Ms. Brown was very nice, as was John Zimmer from Senator Mike Johanns’ office (NE) (SCIA).

The one that surprised me the most was Jackie Parker, from Senator Carl Levin’s office. (MI) (CCA).  She was very glad we dropped in but was in a hurry to another meeting, so asked me to walk with her and tell her more about the issue.  She wants to stay in contact and asked for ideas and potential tweeks to the law.

Senator Coburn’s Chief of Staff, Mike Schwartz was incredibly welcoming. He remembered us from our visit in 2007 and was still just as supportive. Mr. Schwartz urged us to visit Senator Landrieu’s office as well. He said that not only is she a co-chair for the CCA, she is a wonderful person and a good friend of his.  I stopped by her office and picked up contact information for a couple of her aides.

One of our Mom’s flew in Wednesday night with her son. Debra had lost a 2-year old to ICWA a few years ago. So we started Thursday with a meeting with her Senator, Maria Cantwell. (WA) (SCIA). Senator Cantwell’s aide, Paul Wolfe, was wonderful and we look forward to corresponding with him more.

We then visited with Todd Ungerecht, an aide to a Representative from Debra’s State.  Rep. Doc Hastings (WA) is the Chair to the Natural Resource Committee, which the House Indian Affairs is a subcommittee of. He was very good to meet with.

At this point, Sarah took Debra and her son sight seeing, and I went on to my Representative’s office, Rick Berg.  There I met with Danielle Janowski. Rep. Berg’s office has got to be the one most on the ball on Capitol Hill, because they had a Thank You card already in my mailbox by the time I got home.

While waiting for another parent, Johnston Moore, to arrive for a meeting with his Representative, I dropped into as many additional offices as I could, including the offices for Rep’s Benishek (SIANA), Gosar (SIANA), Flake, Thompson, Hunter, Denham (SIANA),  Lujan (SIANA), Hanabusa (SIANA), and Speaker John Boehner. I simply explained that we wanted to start a conversation about what is happening to children and families affected by ICWA as well as leave some information.

The staff person for Representative Kristi Noem of South Dakota was not as welcoming this time as she had been last January.  She basically told me that pushing for a change in the ICWA right now would be too difficult. I was very disappointed as their office had seemed so helpful the last time we had been there.  It is important for us (especially families from South Dakota) to continue speaking to Rep. Noem about this as she is on the SIANA. It could be that the NPR series on ICWA, which aired the very week we were in DC and was very condemning of South Dakota’s foster care system, has frightened them.

We had good meetings in the offices of Raul Labrador (SIANA), Tom McClintock (SIANA), and an interesting one in the office of Karen Bass (Co-chair of the CCA).

By Thursday evening, we had visited the offices of every member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, every member of the House Committee on Indian Affairs, and many of the members of the adoption caucus. I went in to several additional offices as well, just to tell the front desk about the Teach-in, why we are having it, and inviting members of their staff to come – especially if I thought that particular Congressman had a heart for the Constitution.

Now the five of us walked a couple blocks to one of our favorite restaurants, a deli called “Cosi,” and enjoyed getting to know each other a little better.  We’ve spent years talking on the phone and had never before met face-to-face.

Waiting for the taxi to come to take us to Capitol Hill the next morning – my stomach was tied up in knots. “Lord Jesus, please be with us as we speak and interact with our guests. Help us to remember that this is all about you – not about us – and all we want is what You want – to care for the children. Lord, in the name of Jesus, please help us to speak as we ought to speak, with wisdom and grace… Amen”

Friday’s presentation was wonderful. The information given by Dr. Allen, Yale Lewis, Johnston Moore, and the mothers who came to tell their stories, Debra and Melanie, was incredible. I can’t say enough about the compelling effort and testimony given. Please keep Melanie and her family in prayer right now.

Congressman Tim Scott from South Carolina, Senator Hoeven from North Dakota, Congressman Faleomavaega from American Samoa, and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota all sent staff to attend the event. Jayne Davis from Senator Conrad of North Dakota also attended for a short time.  A representative from a national adoption council also attended and was very interested.

There were certain Legislative Aides who were quite interested during meetings earlier this week who had already told us they would be unable to attend. Senator Barrasso’s office, Senator Levin’s office, Senator Inhofe’s office, and Senator Tom Coburn’s office, in particular.

While disappointed in the low turnout, the message was phenomenal and we look forward to sharing portions of the video tape. People who hear the stories are always surprised this is happening to children and supportive of efforts to ensure their best interest. To get the attention of Congress, the rest of America needs to know what is happening. We are discussing ways to use the video tape to get the story out.

We have begun posting portions to YouTube. We also want to make a short version for use in churches and speaking events. The wrap up by Dr. Allen is particularly incredible. If you would like to share the video or portions of it in your area, please let us know. You might be able to decide better after we get a couple more things up on YouTube.  Again – if there is anyone that is able to help with this type of thing, we embrace volunteers.

WE NEED HELP!

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Jun 072011
 

Hey wonderful peoples – with school out, does anyone have extra time?

We could really use your help – prayer wise as well as hands on.

I am the administrator of CAICW – but only a volunteer in a one man office – and have to work as an RN to support my family. So I am doing the best I can, but it ends up being slow – much too slow. It breaks my heart that I can’t move any faster than I am.

Right now:
1) An attorney in the Twin Cities is working on draft legislation to present to Congress
2) We are setting up a seminar for Congressmen, teaching reality of ICWA.
3) We NEED help fundraising – Families NEED a Legal Defense Fund!
4) We NEED website work on caicw.org
5) We NEED help monitoring this facebook page
6) We NEED another newsletter out

– I appreciate anything you can do – Thanks so much for your prayers –

I am Elizabeth (Lisa) Morris, Administrator
Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare (CAICW)
PO Box 253, Hillsboro ND 58045
administrator@caicw.org
https://caicw.org/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/CAICW
To Donate:
https://npo.networkforgood.org/Donate/Donate.aspx?npoSubscriptionId=1004119&code=Email+Solicitation

To Those that Love an ICWA Child:

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Jun 112010
 

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– I am one of those –

– that person you are afraid of. That person with whom children were placed, not because I could handle them, not because I even knew them …

In fact, my abilities, emotional stability, and character were never a factor at all. My husband was their grandfather. That’s all that mattered. No one from the tribe or the court ever talked to me about whether I could handle four more kids on top of my own five. No Guardian Ad Litem called to chat. No one seemed to care whether I could do this or not.

The Tribe did finally send a couple women over to do a “home study,” but that was a good year or more after they had already placed the kids with us. That was the first, and last, time anyone checked on our home.

And they didn’t even check the bedrooms. If they had, they would have discovered that not all the kids had their own beds. In fact, not all the kids even had bedrooms. We used two of our shops storage rooms for some of the kids.

No, the two tribal “social workers” who flew in from another state and who we were told would spend two days with us, chatted with my husband for about an hour, then asked how to get to a local attraction. They were anxious to get started with their paid vacation. We were happy to give them directions and be finished with the faux “home study.”

That was it. Never saw them again.

So…our family knows first hand what it takes to be one of our tribe’s “acceptable” Indian homes.

How did it turn out? I’d like to say that we became the Brady Bunch. But it’s not that simple.

In some ways, at various points of time, we did great. There was love, laughs, and kindness, along with the stress, sibling rivalry, and melt downs. The four kids, all under 7 when they arrived, started calling us Mom and Dad, just as our first five did, and all the kids, most of whom were the same age, began referring to each other as brothers & sisters.

But our lives were far from story book (Or even TV series). The reality of the effects of alcohol exposure, crack exposure, and neglect on the four wove through all of our lives. It’s one thing if a family is trying to help one child get through this kind of storm. It’s quite another when one is trying to help four without training, support, or resources – while trying to raise your own five young children at the same time.

Yup. The tribe mandated the ICWA thing, and then left us hanging.

Why did I do it? Why didn’t I just say “No?” Again, because of ICWA. I had seen the conditions in which my husband’s nephews, nieces and other grandchildren were being made to live. I knew that even though I was on the edge of losing my mind, our home was still better and safer than any other that the tribe might choose. I couldn’t turn these four away to that kind of life. Believe it or not—as much as I felt like a basket case on my better days and the wicked witch on my worst, our home was truly the best these children would get in an ICWA placement.

And we had Jesus Christ to lean on, and a wonderful, loving, large church family. Without these, I truly might have lost my mind.

Three years after my husband was given custody, he was diagnosed with cancer. Four years later, he passed away. Through all those hard years, church brothers & sisters practically carried us.

After he passed, though, is when real troubles began. It was as if a dam of emotions, pent up and waiting, suddenly exploded. Some of it was the grief of birth children, some the impulse of teen-agers. The hardest though, was the eruption of FAE angst and the familial predilection to alcoholism as children entered adolescence one by one.

Today the storm is over. Only four of the nine are still minors. At this point in our story, despite years of trying to teach the children the dangers of drugs, all is not well.

Just last week, I gave custody of one of the grandchildren to the county in order that he be able to get the mental health help that he needs, as well as for the protection of the other children still in the home. I did this because the two grandchildren that had thus far reached adulthood have returned to the birth family—as well as the destructive family lifestyle. I now needed to change how I was doing things in order to prevent the same outcome with this child.

I just wish I had fully realized years ago how necessary trained help was, so that the other two might have benefitted as well. (By the way, through correct interpretation of the law, as we explained it to the judge, this particular custody transfer was deemed non-ICWA.)

Long story short—Contrary to the belief of Congress and one-sided, tribal government testimony, the “best interest of the child” does NOT require a relative placement or even an Indian placement.

As much as many tribal leaders want society to believe that all children of heritage are “theirs” and have a “connection” to tribal culture that will crush them if broken, it’s just not true. To some people such things matter, to others, it doesn’t.

My birth children and grandchildren, for example, would be crushed if forced to live on the reservation. My Children may be 50% Indian, but they have been raised in much safer, loving communities than the reservation community in which they are enrolled. Living on the reservation would have destroyed them.

Further, most children aren’t “just” Indian. Ours are also Irish, Scottish, German and even Jewish. All their heritages are equally important. Most children of tribal heritage have other, equally important heritages, and they are all US citizens who should be constitutionally given Equal Protection. Meaning – contrary to common practice today, enrolled children should not be left in conditions that children of any other heritage would be removed from. They are not mere chattel—a means for additional funding— for tribal governments.

Many children, after suffering abuse and neglect, need real help, and several tribal governments are negligent in that they place them into situations where they can not get it.

Time and again I have seen children placed by their tribe into violent, verbally, physically, and even sexually abusive, drug infested homes. I have seen little or no attention given to the emotional and mental health issues these children have had. That isn’t to say that no tribal governments care—it’s just to say that I, having lived in this particular extended family for 30 some years, haven’t seen it.

ICWA, in all our family experience, is a crime against children.

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Does the ICWA Serve Children’s or Government’s Welfare?

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May 072010
 

The following is excerpted from a letter written five years ago to Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell and other members of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs by a foster mother. Senator Campbell never responded. This letter, and lack of response, mirror the frustrations and despair of parents, foster parents, extended family, and adoptive parents all over the United States:

Senator Campbell,

We are white foster parents to an Indian child who is just over 3 1/2 years old. He has been in our home since he was 18 months old, over 2 years. His birth mother, a member of an Indian tribe, voluntarily placed him in foster care with county Social Services in December 1997.

In January 2000 the tribe moved to take jurisdiction of the case because the county had filed for termination of parental rights. The Tribal Chairman wrote the county in late October 1999 suggesting that the tribe would prefer that the county seek long term foster care for the child rather than termination and adoption. The county, because of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, was unable to meet the tribe’s request. It was only then that the tribe filed its motion to have jurisdiction transferred.

In the county DSS case file are at least two psychological profiles that indicate the child’s interests are best served by remaining in a stable, familiar environment. There are also psychological reports that indicate that contact between the child and his mother are harmful to the child, that the birth mother has reached a developmental “ceiling” of around 9 -12 years of age, and that she’ll never be able to care for the child (The Tribal Court has ordered that visitation between the child and his birth mother resume).

We understand the importance of the Indian Child Welfare Act. However, we have a very difficult time understanding how the Act is benefiting this child. As it stands, because of the Act, he’s about to lose his home, his family, his stability, his security. He sees a speech therapist twice weekly, an occupational therapist twice weekly and a mental health therapist bi-weekly. Tribal Social Services, if it can’t find an Indian home willing to take this special needs child for the next 15 years, will begin looking for a series of short-term placements. Do you really believe that this is in his best interest? To be shuffled from foster home to foster home to foster home for the next 15 years?
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