Tell Congress How to Best Meet the Needs of Native Children

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Mar 132020
 
Little girl on trike

The Congressional Commission on Native Children wants to hear your experience as a child with tribal heritage or raising children who have tribal heritage. Too often, Commissions such as this have heard from only one segment of the population. However, this Commission – which is tasked by Congress to identify new strategies for lasting solutions and report back to them – wants to hear from ALL who have experience – no matter the relationship. Everyone matters.

If you are an individual with tribal heritage – what were some of the most beneficial experiences you had growing up? What programs, entities, or individuals helped your growth most? Which experiences were most hurtful or destructive? Again, you can do this anonymously if you choose.

If you are a parent, grandparent, other relative or foster/adoptive parent who is eligible for membership in a federal tribe but prefer to raise your child outside of the reservation system, please let the Commission know why. Your testimony can be anonymous and will help them to understand tribal members who choose not to be under tribal jurisdiction.
If you are a parent, grandparent, extended relative, or adoptive parent who is NOT eligible for membership, yet a tribe has interfered or attempted to interfere with your relationship with your child, please explain this to the Commission.

Written testimony is to be given just as much weight as oral testimony and CAN be anonymous.

To send signed testimony identifying you and the child – Send To: asbwsnc@gmail.com

See the bottom of the page for how to submit testimony anonymously.

“The Commission will focus its recommendations on solutions to issues that would improve the health, safety, and well-being of Native children, including: child welfare; physical, mental, and behavioral health; educational and vocational opportunities; school district policies and practices; access to cultural and extracurricular activities; juvenile justice; early education and development; wraparound services for Native children.”

It is important to tell your child’s story. Your honest opinion about any of what is described above is important. The Commission needs to know your observations and experience – good or bad. They won’t know the full spectrum of experiences if they continually hear only from the same sources.

Also – if your child has struggles in certain areas, let the Commission know why you think that might be and what methods have been used to try to resolve it.

One federal program, the Administration of Children and Families (ACF), has a budget of about 50 billion and “awards on the average $647 Million to Native Americans through programs like Head Start… TANF, LIHEAP,…and the Administration for Native Americans, to name a few.” Have any of these ACF programs benefited your child? Why or why not?

If your child is doing well physically, emotionally, academically, and/or spiritually – let the Commission know and tell them which factors you believe helped your child attain that well-being. Was there a close relationship that inspired them? A particular tribal, federal, school or church program? – OR no program at all – just stable, loving home life? If so, the Commission NEEDS to know this.

If a Commission hears only from Social Service professionals who continually say ALL Native Children suffer from (fill in the blank) and All NEED a certain social service program to get better… than that is what a Commission will believe. If you have a different story – please tell it. If the best outcome for a child is in a stable and loving home setting, independent of government programs, the Commission needs to know this. If it isn’t able to obtain this type of data, it will rely on the data social services, organizations and agencies give it.

You could also choose to include any other issue related to your child that you feel needs addressing, including any words or phrases commonly used by governments or organizations when referring to children of heritage that you feel diminish your child.

What are the thoughts and inferences behind those words? Do they paint an incorrect perception of your child? Are they paternalistic or condescending? Do they promote victimhood? Do you feel ‘triggered’ by any of the below words used and inferences made by government agents and policies, or do they seem correct to you?

  • “Stakeholders” (when used as a selective reference)
  • “The Wrongs We Are Doing Native American Children,”
  • “The protective role of Native American culture and language”
  • “Complex program requirements and limited resources stymie efforts to reduce the disparities among Native children.”
  • “Acts of Self-Determination Foster Strong Native Families and Communities”
  • “Native Language Holds Culture, Culture Holds Language, and Both Hold Wellness”
  • Data on all “Native children” is required “to see how well children are cared for” and that the “rights of children and families are adhered to.”
  • ICWA “protects the best interest of the Indian Child and promotes the stability and security of Indian tribes and families.”
  • “Part of ensuring the safety and security of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) children is having basic data collected that provides information on their circumstances.”
  • Under the AFCARS Rule, agencies can collect and keep “information on children who are not enrolled.”
  • They will examine the “unique challenges Native children face”
  • They will build “on the strengths and leadership of Native communities, with the goal of developing a sustainable system that delivers wrap-around services to Native children.”
  • “Resources and supports for Native children are currently inappropriate, insufficient, or limited by bureaucracy so that they are ineffective.”
  • “The vision of Native children and youth who are resilient, safe, healthy, and secure requires many types of evidence, including a wide range of evaluation data, descriptive research studies, performance measures, innovative practice models, financial and cost data, survey statistics, and analyses of program administrative data; all contributing to shared strengths-focused narratives relevant and useful to tribal leadership and stakeholders.”

OPTIONAL Adoption/Foster care Questions: [Wording is pulled from the conclusions of a 1998 pilot study report]
1. Does placing American Indian children in foster/adoptive non-Indian homes puts them at great risk for experiencing psychological trauma leading to the development of long-term emotional and psychological problems in later life?
2. Are there unique factors of Indian children being placed in non-Indian homes that create damaging effects in the later lives of the children?
3. Do American Indians have a cognitive process different from non-Indians – a cognitive difference in the way Indian children receive, process, integrate and apply new information—in short, a difference in learning style”?
a. Is the difference in learning style a cognitive difference in race, a familial difference, an issue unique to your child, or a symptom of fetal alcohol effects?
4. Are the ties between Indian children and their birth families and culture extremely strong, and the ties between Indian children and non-Indian foster/adoptee families only “foster parent-tie-to-Indian child, not Indian child-ties-to-foster parent?”
5. Do American Indian adults who were adopted into non-Indian families as children have greater problems with self-identity, self-esteem, and inter-personal relationships than do their peers from non-Indian and Indian homes?
6. Do Indian adoptees, regardless of age at placement, list identity with their family and their tribe as their first priority, and the sorrow of not knowing their culture, language, heritage and family as a life-long, often emotionally debilitating anguish?

Encourage as many people as possible to send in their testimony. There has been a long history of misinformation concerning children who have heritage, and it will take the stories of quite a few people to begin to correct the mind-view of government agencies.

Signed testimony can be given to a CNC Commissioner to deliver as anonymous to the full Commission. Elizabeth Morris, chair of CAICW, is a CNC Commissioner. Elizabeth will keep your signed copy in a protected file in her office and deliver the anonymous copy to the Commission.

You can submit your testimony to Elizabeth Morris at:
administrator@caicw.org

or mail through USPO to:
PO Box 460, Hillsboro, ND 58045

May 232015
 
Roland and his newborn, 1990

A friend or relative appears to be struggling with the difficulties of parenting and appears to either not understand the needs of children at varied points in their development, or is overwhelmed with inside or outside stress and has been unable to complete certain tasks.

You want to help, but are uncertain how. Should you tell yourself it is none of your business and look the other way, speak to the parents privately and appear to be a busy-body, or anonymously call CPS and let them be the bad guys?

You need to decide what degree of danger the children are factually in and take steps based on that determination.

Wearing the same clothes for two days in a row is not necessarily child neglect. Some parents might simply be good stewards of limited resources. I once knew a wonderful mom who checked the clothes for soil, and if they were fine, hung them up again for use the next day. This family was cutting down not only on laundry expense, but the wear and tear of good clothing (the lint trap in your dryer is evidence of the wear and tear of frequent washing.) This was simply a lifestyle choice.

In fact, there is nothing wrong with living in what others might call “poverty.” Some of our best years as a family were when we lived extremely low income. In rural Montana, out in the middle of a cornfield, we opted to go without government welfare programs, despite the fact we would have easily qualified. Instead, we obtained goats and chickens (most of which were given to us by friends), taught our kids chores, baked bread from scratch, and raised a garden in glorious view of the Mission Mountains.

This was a lifestyle choice – and it was a healthy choice for our family physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Difficulties only arose when we felt compelled to take in extra children after being called by county social workers in accordance with the Indian Child Welfare Act. My husband’s adult children were struggling with addiction, and someone needed to take the grandchildren.

You see, ICWA had no qualms about our “poverty” status. That was a non-issue. However…our inability to handle that many children – theirs and ours – under the age of 8 was also a non-issue. ICWA workers weren’t at all concerned about whether we were capable and didn’t do any kind of home study or background check prior to placing four children with us. The only concern they had was to find a relative home – no matter what condition the home was in.

Twenty years later, after having raised all the children to adulthood, we belatedly know how the situation could have been handled much better for all concerned.

What I will tell you next is how I wish it had been handled and how I now advise others to handle similar situations.

Know this, first off. The placement of a child by tribal social services is not always in the best interest of the child. We have numerous documented accounts of placements made out of expediency for tribal government and tribal social services with little regard for the factual needs of the child. You do not want to take children out of the frying pan and put them into the fire.

There is financial incentive for a tribal government to take jurisdiction over a child. Tribal governments do get more money per head. Federal dollars are tied to tribal rolls and the U.S. census. The fact that a child in question has never been enrolled previously only increases the incentive, as it means an addition of dollars the tribal entity had not had up to that point. The true purpose of ICWA is to protect tribal sovereignty, not children.

For more explanation of this and what has been factually happening to children, Read: – https://caicw.org/2015/05/21/ive-messed-up-and-someone-is-threatening-to-call-cps/#.VWDZE6jlY6k

Second, if a child has even the smallest – or even a suspected – percentage of heritage. social services and court systems of every jurisdiction across the country are advised to contact a tribal government to take jurisdiction if the tribe so chooses. It is a guideline right now, but could become a permanent rule within the year.

What if the family you are concerned with has had no connection to or interest in being associated with tribal government? What if the family has purposefully decided to distance themselves from the reservation system? According to the BIA guidelines, that is irrelevant. The only matter of concern is whether the tribal government wants the child as a member. If they do, no other entity can stand in the way, including the parents.

With all this in mind, you need to decide whether intervention is necessary for the family you are concerned with, and if so, what kind of intervention.

If you decide to speak to the parents directly and offer personal assistance, the following points could help:

#1) Assure the parents that they are capable of raising their child, but simply need some short term guidance and teaching. Many parents respond better if they feel they are respected and not mocked. Assure them that you love them all and want to help before some stranger calls CPS and causes trouble for them.

#2) Determine to help them bond well and stay bonded to their child. If together you decide the child should be moved to your home or the home of another in order to give respite to the parents, make healthy reunification the primary and foundational goal. You do NOT want to raise their child to adulthood.

#3) Understand your own needs and limitations. I did not do this. I did not understand at the time that I was factually a loner who thrives on alone time. I could deal with my own children, but dealing with children I did not know very well almost broke me.

If you are a loner, see if other family or friends might share the responsibility with you. If, for example, you take actual custody, perhaps others can commit to scheduled and consistent respite care for you.

#4) If at all possible, leave CPS out of this, especially if the child has tribal heritage. You want the parents to be successful as a family – not destroyed. While there are many social workers and systems throughout the country that also want the family to be successful, there is no guarantee this will happen once a tribal government intervenes, and the current BIA guidelines can (and the probable rules will) tie the hands of all well-meaning social services and courts.

I am not afraid to make the last statement. Documentation of dangerous placements by tribal courts abound. See ACF Regional Director Tom Sullivan’s whistle blower report as just one example of documented evidence. READ – https://caicw.org/2015/05/10/acf-regional-director-blowing-the-whistle-on-child-abuse/#.VWDZfKjlY6k

#5) The success in helping the family won’t be the result of separating them from their child – but in how patiently and lovingly you can teach the parents to be the best parents they can be….together with how willing and open they are to being taught.

Willingness will have to come from both sides. – they need to be willing to submit to at least weekly hands on teaching in the comfort and care of a child – spending the day with you, if possible – and the more often they do this, the more willing to be taught, the sooner they can resume as an independent family. This doesn’t have to take many weeks. It could end up being just a short time. It will depend on how willing they are to be taught.

#6) Speak the TRUTH – with Love. Yes, the truth can hurt. But outside of the truth, little will change. You will need courage and wisdom to identify the true problem areas and speak about them with gentleness. The parents will need courage and wisdom to accept the truth with humility and deal appropriately with it. God be with you all in the process.

#7) Leave money out of the issue if at all possible. Do not make this about money if you can avoid it. But in your teaching, encourage the parents to take increasing personal financial responsibility for the child’s physical and educational needs.

Take the hit and appear to be a busybody.

The government should be called where children are in danger and there is no other way to protect them.

May 212015
 
Dorothy, Andrew, and Walter, June 1983

– YOU CAN TURN THIS AROUND:

You have a good heart and have always meant well, trying to do what you thought was right and help others where you can, but somewhere along the line, you got caught in things you had been warned about.

These things didn’t seem dangerous initially. It looked fun, everyone else is doing it, and you wanted to be part of what was going on. That’s understandable. You might even have had some deep pains in your heart that you wanted to soothe, hurts you yearned to forget. The things you chose to do helped you forget pain. That’s understandable as well.

So, when some of your elders had warn you to stay away from it, it wasn’t what you wanted to hear. That said, you pushed them away and told yourself they were just old and judgmental.

Even that is understandable. Many of your elders felt the same way when young. But they learned the hard way what can happen, and wanted to spare you from having to learn the same way. Addiction is real – and eventually, it will destroy you and everything you love. Your elders wanted to help you avoid that.

Now you have young children, and someone has threatened to call CPS on you.

You CAN turn this around – but you need to start accepting help right away and listen to the advice of those who really do care and want the best for you and your children.

CPS is not necessarily the people who can or will help. Getting advice from older people is best – grandparents who have finished raising children to adulthood. It’s not just theory for them; they have lived it.

Find more than one older mentor, as not any one person has all the answers. Find mentors that are

• Living clean
• Have been doing so for quite awhile
• Have a strong relationship with God.
• Can see your heart and are willing to gently, patiently teach you in the ways of God.

Humble yourself – listen, trust, and do what they suggest. Do this NOW – TODAY – before someone calls CPS and gets them involved.

.
– WHY YOU DO NOT WANT CPS INVOLVED:

You do NOT want CPS in your life – most particularly if you have any Native American ancestry. Depending on the tribe, you and your child could be put into a situation you would never have imagined. It is not so much that all CPS workers are all bad – it is because of laws forcing them to hand your children over to tribal governments.

You might have been told this is a good thing – that this will protect your rights to your children and keep them in your home longer. This might be true to an extent. But the Indian Child Welfare Act was not written to protect children or parents. It was written to protect tribal governments and tribal sovereignty.

Therefore, you could be helped to keep your child longer – but only if it pleases the tribal government.

We have seen many cases where children have been removed from family members and given to other people because it pleased tribal government to do so. Current BIA guidelines say no one can question the placement decision of a tribal court because questioning a placement undermines the tribal court.

We have seen children
1. Taken from one extended relative and given to another because someone on the council didn’t like the original caretaker.
2. Taken from non-tribal parents and given to enrolled parents despite known drug and physical abuse.
3. Taken from grandparents because the grandparents were non-Indian.
4. Taken from maternal family members and given to paternal family members when a payment was coming out and the paternal family wanted the children’s checks.

The tribal government has complete and final say. NOT YOU.

There is no guarantee things will be done the way you envision – being able to keep your child AND your current lifestyle. Those who do get their way and keep their children despite continued drug, alcohol and even child abuse are frequently related to someone in tribal government and express complete agreement with tribal government’s agenda.

We have seen a 13-yr-old girl left in the home of a non-relative tribal member, with a documented history of sexual abuse, despite the fact that her non-tribal birth father wanted her, had a clean record, was fighting to try to get her back, and numerous reports of the tribal member’s sexual abuse record had been made to tribal and federal officials, including the BIA. To this date, the father has still not been able to get his daughter back.

We have seen two fathers in the Fargo area fight for over a year to get their daughters back from the Cheyenne River reservation. They have been unable to do so, despite court orders from the Fargo court.

But according to the new BIA guidelines, no one can question the placement of a tribal court.

READ about abuse of Native American children under the watchful eye of tribal and federal government – read ACF Regional Director Tom Sullivan’s 29-page Whistleblower report – https://caicw.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Thomas-F-Sullivan-WB-April-2015.pdf

.
– WHY THEY ARE ABLE TO DO THIS:

I know it seems unbelievable, right? How could things like this be happening under the eye of federal government?

Our Government is currently protecting tribal sovereignty at all costs. Literally – at all cost.

According to the last two U.S. censuses, 75% of tribal members do not live in Indian Country. Many parents have purposefully taken their children and left Indian Country due to rampant crime and tribal government corruption on many reservations.

With a declining population, tribal governments have been losing money (federal money is tied to U.S. census numbers and tribal rolls). So they have pushed federal government to force children back into the reservation system.

They could not push Congressmen to do this by telling them tribal members are taking their families and leaving. Congress would have recognized it as a freedom and a right. So they have sold the American public on a false narrative – that evil “white” social agencies are “stealing” the children.

FAR more children leave Indian Country in the company of their parents than have ever left through social agencies.

But Congress bought the story and in 1978, passed the Indian Child Welfare Act.
Still – it hasn’t helped. With so much un-auditable money available from federal government, not to mention lucrative casino dollars, crime and tribal corruption has increased, and the numbers of tribal members living on the reservations continued to decline.

After a Supreme Court case in 2013 ruled in favor of the rights of a non-tribal birth mother, tribal governments were enraged. They felt their power threatened. They vowed to “fix” the “loophole” allowing an unwed, non-tribal birth mother to make her own decisions, and said they would find a way to strengthen the ICWA.

The Attorney General for the Cherokee Nation said they would not go through Congress to do it, though. She said that if they did that, other organizations, (such as ours) would try to get their two-cents in. She is right, of course. We would most definitely stand up for the factual rights of children and families. But they have more power and money than we do, so they went to the White House instead to “fix” the “loophole” of parental rights.

On December 3, 2014, U.S Attorney General Eric Holder vowed to give permanent jurisdiction of multi-racial children across the nation to Tribal Governments.

In reference to the Indian Child Welfare Act, he stated,

…“We are partnering with the Departments of the Interior and Health and Human Services to make sure that all the tools available to the federal government are used to promote compliance with this important law.”
And
“… because of the foundation we’ve built – no matter who sits in the Oval Office, or who serves as Attorney General of the United States, America’s renewed and reinforced commitment to upholding these promises will be unwavering and unchangeable; powerful and permanent.”

Can you avoid tribal government taking over jurisdiction of your child once CPS is called? It is very hard.

The new guidelines state:
1. It doesn’t matter if the child lives on or off the reservation, or has EVER been connected to Indian Country.
2. There is no need for a certain blood quantum. Tribal governments have complete say over whether a child is a member and subject to ICWA.
3. Courts do NOT have to entertain “Best Interest” arguments because Congress has already decided that the child’s best interest is under the ICWA. Any other discussion of “best interest” is irrelevant.
4. EVERY child custody case MUST be vetted to see if it is ICWA, because children who are just 1% heritage might not look Indian – so courts are required to question the heritage of EVERY child.
5. If there is any question that a child is Indian – he is to be treated as such until proven otherwise. The best interest of the child in relation to permanency is irrelevant. (How does one explain this to a child – especially when it is found later that this child was not eligible for membership? Why are the child’s rights irrelevant?)
6. No one is to question the placement decision of tribal court, because pointing out problems – for example, that a certain home has a history of child abuse – undermines the authority of tribal court.

(Again, please note Tom Sullivan’s report and the justified reason some placements needed to be questioned, but weren’t. Laurynn Whiteshield, (3 yrs. old) murdered a month after placement under the watchful eye of U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon and the BIA at the Spirit Lake Reservation, is just one of many examples.)

YOU SEE – the ICWA is NOT about parental rights. These rules are clearly written to thwart efforts by parents to protect children from corrupt tribal governments. It is NOT about protecting families. If you had any question before this, read the new BIA guidelines and proposed rules in full on your own. The new rules settle all doubt.

.
– BOTTOM LINE:

Some tribal governments are reticent to admit they don’t have enough safe homes to place children in, and not wanting to place the children off the reservation, they have placed children in questionable and even dangerous homes.
Abuses are rampant on some reservations because the U.S. Government has set up a system that allows extensive abuse to occur unchecked and without repercussion.
It appears much more important to some in federal government and tribal government to protect tribal sovereignty first and foremost.

According to the BIA, the only “best interest” of importance is keeping the child with the tribe. The BIA rules repeat that Congress has “a presumption that ICWA’s placement preferences are in the best interests of Indian children; therefore, an independent analysis of “best interest” would undermine Congress’s findings.”

These BIA rules reiterate a prejudicial assumption that everyone with any tribal heritage has exactly the same feelings, thoughts and needs. It prejudicially assumes it is always in the best interest of a child to be under the jurisdiction of tribal government, even if parents and grandparents have chosen and raised them in a different environment with different worldview.

Many of us – birth parents and grandparents of children who could be affected by these rules, do not want corrupt tribal governments interfering with our families or endangering our children and grandchildren.

Neither Congress nor tribal governments should be mandating political affiliations for our children.

Do not lose your child. Before CPS is called – get help from trusted mentors. Today.

~~~~~~~~~~~~
Addendum:

According to former Montana State legislator, Rick Jore:

“[A Pastor once] asked me “Well Rick, what do we owe the Indians?” My response: “We owe them the same thing we owe everybody…the Truth.”

“It is a disservice to Indian people to avoid the entirety of Truth, which is necessary for discipleship, so as not to offend them or to be labeled “racist.” …To allow anyone to become, and continue to be, dependent upon gov’t is to allow them to wallow in idolatry…worship of the state. “Caesar worship.”

“… thousands of supposed purveyors of Christianity, diminish the message of Total Truth. They are evangelizing people into something besides Biblical Christianity. They teach people that they can be redeemed and then continue to think like humanists. And we wonder why the “churches” have become irrelevant? No discipleship.

…”Whom God loves, He chastens.” (“Truth demands confrontation.” -Francis Schaeffer)

“The Gospel does not begin at the Cross…it begins at Creation. Men cannot understand their need of a Savior if they do not understand how and why they are fallen and separated from God.

“Jesus is “The Truth” in all things and at all times. If not, He is not God. He is Lord and King over politics, economics, business, entertainment, science…everything. To separate Him from any area of life is to deny Who He Is.”

“The Scriptures are the final authority in all things to which they speak. Moreover, they speak to all things.” – Cornelius Van Til ”

Rick
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dec 052014
 

U.S Attorney General Eric Holder Vowed to give Permanent Jurisdiction of Multi-racial Children Across the Nation to Tribal Governments on Wednesday, December 3, 2014.

In reference to the Indian Child Welfare Act, he stated,

…“We are partnering with the Departments of the Interior and Health and Human Services to make sure that all the tools available to the federal government are used to promote compliance with this important law.”
And “… because of the foundation we’ve built – no matter who sits in the Oval Office, or who serves as Attorney General of the United States, America’s renewed and reinforced commitment to upholding these promises will be unwavering and unchangeable; powerful and permanent.”

(READ his remarks in full here – https://caicw.org/2015/05/18/attorney-general-eric-holders-dec-3-2014-remarks-in-full/#)

He made this vow in remarks during the White House Tribal Nations Conference in Washington, DC. Below is a response from a Parent – the Chair of the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare.

Attorney General Eric Holder;

Re: Your statement during the White House Tribal Nations Conference, Dec. 3, 2014, in regards to the Indian Child Welfare Act.

What is consistently left out of the ICWA discussion is the civil rights of United States citizens of every heritage – those enrolled in tribal communities and those who are not – who do not want tribal government interference in their families. Shortsighted placation of tribal leaders ignores these facts:

1. 75% of tribal members do NOT live in Indian Country
2. Most families falling under tribal jurisdiction are multi-racial, and
3. Many families have purposefully chosen to raise their children with values other than those currently popular in Indian Country.

Federal government does not have the right to assign our children to political entities.

Further, federal government does not have the right to choose which religion, customs or traditions a child should be raised in. This holds true for children who are 100% a certain heritage, let alone children who are multi-heritage. It holds true because we are a nation that respects the rights and freedoms of every individual citizen – no matter their heritage.

Please recognize that while we agree with you that “any child in Indian Country – in Oklahoma, or Montana, or New Mexico – is not fundamentally different from an African-American kid growing up in New York City” – neither is any child fundamentally different from a Hispanic Catholic, German Jewish, or Irish Protestant child growing up in any U.S. city or rural town. In fact, most enrollable children in America have Caucasian relatives – and many live with their Caucasian relatives. My own enrolled children are no different from their fully Caucasian cousins or their cousins with Filipino heritage. Children are children – with fundamentally the same emotional and physical needs. We agree 100% with you.

We also agree no child “should be forced to choose between their cultural heritage and their well-being.” Tragically, that is the very thing federal and tribal governments are doing to many of these children.

Enrollable children – and at times even children who are not enrollable but are targeted by a tribal government anyway – are currently forced to accept what is purported to be their cultural heritage – at the expense of their safety and well-being. This has even been done under the watchful eye of the Justice Department, as in the case of 3-year-old Lauryn Whiteshield, murdered in 2013.

Concerning your directive regarding cultural heritage, the federal government does not have the right to mandate that my children and grandchildren – or any of the children whose families we represent – be raised in a home “suffused with the proud traditions of Indian cultures.” As parents, my husband and I had a right to decide that our children’s Irish Catholic, German Jewish, and “American” Evangelical heritage is all equally important. It is the parent’s choice, not the government’s, as to how our children are raised (Meyer vs. Nebraska, 1923; Pierce vs. Society of Sisters. 1925)

My name is Elizabeth Sharon Morris. I am the widow of Roland John Morris, a U.S. citizen of 100% Minnesota Chippewa heritage who was born and raised on the Leech Lake Reservation, speaking only Ojibwe until he started kindergarten. I am the birth mother, grandmother, foster and adoptive mother to several enrolled or eligible members, and an aunt and sister-in-law to dozens. Our home was an accepted ICWA home for 17 years and we raised over a dozen enrolled children in it.

I am also the Chairwoman of the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare, a national non-profit founded by my husband and myself in 2004. CAICW represents children and families across the nation who’ve been hurt by federal Indian policy – most notably ICWA – and who, as U.S. citizens, do not want tribal government control or interference in their families.

The facts are:

1) According to the last two U.S. censuses, 75% of tribal members DO NOT live in Indian Country. Many, like our family, have deliberately taken their children and left in order to protect their families from the rampant crime and corruption of the reservation system. These families do NOT want their children turned over to tribal authorities under any circumstances – and having made a decision to disassociate, should not have to live in fear of their children being placed on the reservation if the parents should die.
2) The abuses at Spirit Lake in North Dakota are well known, but it is also known that Spirit Lake is just a microcosm of what’s happening on many reservations across the country.
3) Gang activity involving drugs is heavy and rampant on many reservations. My husband’s grandson was shot and left for dead at Spirit Lake in July, 2013. To date, your Justice Department, which you’ve highly praised for its work in Indian Country, has not charged anyone for the shooting despite family knowledge of who was involved in the altercation. Many children have been dying within Indian Country whose names don’t make it to the media – and for whom justice is never given.
4) These 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.
5) Many, many times more children leave the reservation system in company of their parents, who have been mass exiting – than do children who have been taken into foster care or found a home in adoption. But tribal leaders won’t admit many parents consciously take their kids out of Indian Country in attempt to get them away from the reservation system and corrupt leaders. It makes a better sound bite to blame evil social services
6) There are many documented cases of children who have been happy in homes outside of Indian Country and who have fought being moved to the reservation, and who have been severely traumatized after being forced to do so. Many in federal government are aware of these children but, as done with the reports of ACF Regional Director Tom Sullivan, have chosen to ignore them.

It is claimed the cause of crime and corruption in Indian Country is poverty and “Historical Trauma,” and that additional funding will solve the problems. Yet, crime and corruption are never made better and can never be made better by giving those responsible for the crime and corruption more money.

It’s time to stop listening to those with vested financial interest in increasing tribal government power, and admit the physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse of tribal members by other tribal members and even many tribal leaders.

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.

To better protect children, we need to:

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 need to 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…”
    • Further, parents involved in any child custody proceeding should have a right to object to tribal jurisdiction. Many tribal members don’t take things to tribal court because they don’t expect to get justice there. For the Justice Department to deny this reveals the Justice Departments willingness to ignore how many tribal courts factually work.
    • Under the principles of comity: All Tribes and States shall accord full faith and credit to a child custody order issued by the Tribe or State of initial jurisdiction consistent within the UCCJA – which enforces a child custody determination by a court of another State – unless the order has been vacated, stayed, or modified by a court having jurisdiction to do so under Article 2 of the UCCJA.

E. Include well-defined protections for Adoptive Parents equal to protections afforded families of every heritage.
F. Mandate that a “Qualified expert witness” be someone who has professional knowledge of the child and family and is able to advocate for the well-being of the child, first and foremost – not tribal government.
G. Because it is claimed that tribal membership is a political rather than racial designation, parents, as U.S. citizens, should have the sole, constitutional right to choose political affiliation for their families and not have it forced upon them. Only parents and/or legal custodians should have the right to enroll a child into an Indian Tribe.

    • 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”

Thank you for your willingness to hear our concerns and take action to protect our children and grandchildren from further exploitation.

Elizabeth Sharon Morris
Chairwoman
Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare (CAICW)

Cc: Tracy Toulou, Director, Tribal Justice
Members of Congress

May 012014
 
BIA - DC

On Wed, Apr 30, 2014 CAICW wrote the following letter to BIA officials:

Ms. Cave and the committees involved with transforming ICWA guidelines;

Thank you for allowing input concerning the Indian Child Welfare Act guidelines.
The hosts of the listening session on Thursday, April 24 stated that only tribal leaders have a stake in the ICWA and are thus the sole “stakeholders” in what happens with ICWA. I realize this is what the BIA as well as many in Congress believe.

However, tribal members who have rejected tribal jurisdiction, non-member persons of heritage who rejected the reservation system and/or have never lived under it, and hundreds of thousands of non-Indians across the nation are in fact “stakeholders” in this law – whether government wants to admit it or not.
Non-Indian stakeholders would include the non-Indian birth moms, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins of children adversely affected by the Indian Child Welfare Act. There are hundreds of thousands of them. You can not say that these families are not “stakeholders” if they are having to fight a tribal government over rights to their own children.

And yes – we have current cases of birth family having to fight tribal governments for their own children. We had a grandmother in Colorado last month who won her case to keep her 7-year-old grandson – but would not have won without help from good attorneys. Sadly, we have a birth mother in Michigan right now who is losing against tribal court because she had no money to hire an attorney who could stand up and say the tribal court isn’t following ICWA, let alone regular family law.

When government passes a law that mandatorily gives jurisdiction of ones family to a political entity – and that law affects not just persons who have chosen to be part of that political entity, but everyone of 100% certain blood heritage – Government has approved a law based on race and has way overstepped its bounds. It gets even worse. Bad enough that many persons and families of 100% heritage are forced unwillingly into this political situation due to their race, but our federal government went further – forcing everyone down to 51% heritage to be included in the law – as well as hundreds of thousands of people with even less than 5% heritage. This means families who are predominately non-native – many of whom are unconnected to the reservation system.

Government has lost sight of the reality that 75% of those who are considered Native American do not live within the reservation system and appears to be blind to the reality that the vast majority of people affected by ICWA are predominately of non-Indian heritage. These affected children have OTHER extended family, roots, traditions, and worldviews – all equally important and acceptable.
I am speaking as a birth mother, grandmother and aunt. I am also speaking as representative of our national membership. I and the people I represent are undeniably stakeholders.

Below are some of the issues brought up by tribal officials in the listening session last Thursday. Tribal leaders are talking about ways to strengthen their jurisdiction over our children. We were very dismayed at the suggested ICWA changes.

Some of the upsetting points of change requested by tribal leaders and their attorneys are listed here. I have summarized reasons for our objections in italics.
1. ‘Make it easier to transfer children to tribal court’ – (Thus harder for families such as ours to protect themselves)

2. ‘Tribal decisions concerning eligiblity should be conclusive’ – (Dominating the feelings and decisions of the birth family, who might have purposefully left the reservation system due to prevalent crime and corruption. Parents and primary caregivers should have the final say as to whether their children are enrolled.)

3. ‘A tribal committee should make revisions to the guidelines and those guidelines should become binding law.’ – (Despite the legislative record, which shows that the guidelines were never meant to be binding. Further – ALL stakeholders should be invited to the table, not just those who have a financial and power stake in having possession of our children.)

3. ‘Make it easier for kids to be eligible. Allow for combining the heritage from two different tribes to help a child reach eligibility.’ – (We are obviously talking about children here who are primarily of non-native heritage. Are tribal governments grasping at straws to keep control over other people’s children?)

4. ‘Require complete ancestry charts for BOTH parents’ – (No tribal government has any right to see my ancestry chart. I am not a tribal member – they have no right to demand any of my personal documents or a right to inspect my lineage.)

5. ‘Eliminate all language referring to “delay” being a problem, the advanced stage of proceedings, or the undue hardship of transferring to tribal court.’ – (OUR children have a right to be respected and protected. There are laws in every state limiting how long a child must wait for permanency BECAUSE it is well documented that children have an emotional need stable and permanent homes as soon as possible. Despite rhetoric to the contrary, our children are no different from any other child in America. It is extremely racist to claim that OUR children are somehow different than other kids and do NOT need permanence as early. What this is essentially saying is that it is okay if children of heritage have their lives disrupted and pulled apart – it doesn’t matter how long they cry or pine for the people they knew and loved best – because they are not as important or valued by our government as other children are. Our government is willing to deeply hurt our children simply because they have Native American heritage. Does the government consider them not as worth protecting as other children?)

6. ‘No more talk about a child not being connected to the tribe – as if the child isn’t “Indian” enough. Eliminate use of the Indian Child Doctrine nationally.’ – ( It is extremely racist for tribal governments to claim that they know my child, who they have never met, better than I do – and that it is more important for my child to be connected to the tribe than it is for my child to have a permanent, safe, and stable home. It is extremely offensive for Tribal leaders to make racist statements like this – completely denying the rights and feelings of non-Indian families as well as Indian families who have purposefully distanced themselves from the reservation system.)

7. ‘Acknowledge that a parent who has not had custody is still a parent with continuing custody.’ – (Would this acknowledgment apply to non-Indian parents as well? Will the government consider the non-Indian mother in Michigan as one with ‘continuing custody,’ even though the tribal court has ripped her 13-yr-old daughter away from her – against the daughter’s wishes? Or is the suggestion that only non-custodial parents of tribal heritage will always be considered a custodial parent? Why? Does the U.S. government continue to view U.S. citizens of native heritage as somehow incapable? Is there an underlying racist notion that parents of heritage are somehow different than their non-native counterparts – despite the vast majority of citizens of tribal heritage living average, mainstream lives off the reservation? To many parents of heritage who choose to live outside of Indian Country, it is offensive that our government continues to pigeon hole people. Further, to non-native parents of eligible children, it is appalling anyone would suggest the other parent be considered to have had custody simply due to a percentage of heritage. Parents without custody are non-custodial parents, period.)

8. ’24-months isn’t long enough for some parents. ex – One dad wasn’t the one with custody because most young children are raised by the mothers and so it is not his fault. He wasn’t responsible for the current situation and needs more time.’ – (The best interest of the child – the need for permanence, safety and stability – needs to be of utmost importance. The needs of Dads who haven’t been in the picture – many times by choice, although they might regret it later – must be secondary. Our society needs all parents, no matter the heritage, to be responsible and accountable, not blaming. We need to make the emotional needs of individual children priority and quit making excuses for adults who should know better.)

9. ‘What one culture deems normal, another culture might not.’ – (This is true. But many ICWA workers seem to ignore the cultural norm an individual child has been raised in – as well as ignore any other heritage of the child – for the sake of the culture tribal leaders and ICWA workers deem necessary and solely important. This appears to happen even when a child has been completely raised and feels comfortable in an alternate culture. Among many ICWA workers, there appears to be a complete disregard and even antagonism for the equally good and acceptable cultures many children living outside of the reservation system have been comfortable with.)

10. ‘States should be required to give the tribal gov’ts a list of all their licensed foster homes so they tribal gov’t can identify preferred families.’ – (Foster families have a right to privacy. This expectation and demand is frightening.)

The following are a list of proposed ICWA changes we would like to see:

1. Children of tribal heritage should be guaranteed protection equal to that of any other child in the United States.
a) Children should never be moved suddenly from a home that is safe, loved, and where they are emotionally, socially and physically comfortable simply because their care-givers are not of a certain heritage. The best interest of the child should be considered first, above the needs of the tribal community.
b) State health and welfare requirements for foster and adoptive children should apply equally to all. If there is proven evidence of emotional and/or physical neglect, the state has an obligation to that child’s welfare and should be held accountable if the child is knowingly or by Social Service neglect left in unsafe conditions. ( – Title 42 U.S.C 1983)

2. Fit parents, no matter their heritage, have the right to choose healthy guardians or adoptive parents for their children without concern for heritage and superseding wishes of tribal government. US Supreme Court decisions upholding family autonomy under 5th and 14th Amendment due process and equal protection include Meyer vs. Nebraska, Pierce v. Society of Sisters, and Brown v. Board of Education.

3. The “Existing Indian Family Doctrine” must be available to families and children that choose not to live within the reservation system.
a) In re Santos Y, the court found “Application of the ICWA to a child whose only connection with an Indian tribe is a one-quarter genetic contribution does not serve the purpose for which the ICWA was enacted…” Santos y quoted from Bridget R.’s due process and equal protection analysis at length. Santos also states, Congress considered amending the ICWA to preclude application of the “existing Indian family doctrine” but did not do so.”
b) In Bridget R., the court stated, “if the Act applies to children whose families have no significant relationship with Indian tribal culture, such application runs afoul of the Constitution in three ways:
— it impermissibly intrudes upon a power ordinarily reserved to the states,
— it improperly interferes with Indian children’s fundamental due process rights respecting family relationships; and
— on the sole basis of race, it deprives them of equal opportunities to be adopted that are available to non-Indian children and exposes them…to having an existing non-Indian family torn apart through an after the fact assertion of tribal and Indian-parent rights under ICWA”.
c) In re Alexandria Y., the court held that “recognition of the existing Indian family doctrine [was] necessary to avoid serious constitutional flaws in the ICWA” and held that the trial court had acted properly in refusing to apply ICWA “because neither [child] nor [mother] had any significant social, cultural, or political relationship with Indian life; thus, there was no existing Indian family to preserve.” Question: If current ICWA case law includes many situations where existing Family Doctrine has already been ignored, then have serious constitutional flaws already occurred?

4. United States citizens, no matter their heritage, have a right to fair trials.
a) When summoned to a tribal court, parents and legal guardians, whether enrolled or not, have to be told their rights, including 25 USC Chapter 21 § 1911. (b) “Transfer of proceedings [to tribal jurisdiction] …in the absence of good cause to the contrary, [and] objection by either parent…”
b) The rights of non-member parents must be upheld: for example; 25 USC Chapter 21 § 1903. Definitions “Permanent Placement” (1) (iv) “shall not include a placement based … upon an award, in a divorce proceeding, of custody to one of the parents.
c) Non-members have to be able to serve county and state summons to tribal members within reservation boundaries and must have access to appeal.
d) Under the principles of comity: All Tribes and States shall accord full faith and credit to a child custody order issued by the Tribe or State of initial jurisdiction consistent within the UCCJA – which enforces a child custody determination by a court of another State – unless the order has been vacated, stayed, or modified by a court having jurisdiction to do so under Article 2 of the UCCJA.

5. Adoptive Parents need well defined protections. These are the citizens among us that have been willing to set aside personal comforts and take in society’s neediest children. Adoptive parents take many risks in doing this, the least of which is finances. People build their lives around family. Adoptive parents risk not only their own hearts, but the hearts of any birth children they have as well as the hearts of their extended family. These parents have an investment in the families they are building and have a right to know that they can put their names on the adoption paper with confidence. If we, as a society, continue to abuse these parents, we will find fewer people willing to take the risk of adoption and more and more children will languish in foster homes.

6. A “Qualified expert witness” should be someone who is able to advocate for the well being of the child, first and foremost: a professional person who has substantial education and experience in the area of the professional person’s specialty and significant knowledge of and experience with the child, his family, and the culture, family structure, and child-rearing practices the child has been raised in.

7. Finally, if tribal membership is a political rather than racial designation, (as argued) than is it constitutional for the definition of an Indian child to include “eligible” children, rather than “enrolled” children?
a) 25 USC Chapter 21 § 1903. Definitions: (4) ”Indian child” means any unmarried person who is under age eighteen and is either
b) member of an Indian tribe or
c) is eligible for membership in an Indian tribe and is the biological child of a member of an Indian tribe;

However;
1. Tribal governments have been given the right as sovereign entities to determine their own membership at the expense of the rights of any other heritage or culture as well as at the expense of individual rights.
2. ICWA does not give Indian children or their legal guardians the choice whether to accept political membership in the tribe. Legal guardians have the right to make that choice for their children, not governments.
3. Non-member relatives are being told that these children are now members of an entity that the family has had no past political, social or cultural relationship with.
4. So IS it then the blood relationship that determines membership? Bridget R., stated, “If tribal determinations are indeed conclusive for purposes of applying ICWA, and if, … a particular tribe recognizes as members all persons who are biologically descended from historic tribal members, then children who are related by blood to such a tribe may be claimed by the tribe, and thus made subject to the provisions of ICWA, solely on the basis of their biological heritage. Only children who are racially Indians face this possibility.” Isn’t that then an unconstitutional race-based classification?
5. Keeping children, no matter their blood quantum, in what the State would normally determine to be an unfit home on the basis of tribal government claims that European values don’t apply to and are not needed by children of tribal heritage is racist in nature and a denial of the child’s personal right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
6. Even with significant relationship with Indian tribal culture, forced application of ICWA runs afoul of the Constitution in three ways: (1) it impermissibly intrudes upon a power ordinarily reserved to the states, (2) it improperly interferes with Indian children’s fundamental due process rights; and (3) on the sole basis of race, it deprives them of equal opportunities to be adopted that are available to non-Indian children.

Thank you for listening to all the stakeholders – including us.

VERONICA SUPPORTERS – What You Need to Know:

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Sep 262013
 
Flower Planter

Family StoryMany have expressed desire to help stop the harm ICWA has been causing.  These are some specifics of the fight you want to help with, from a mother who has been through it:

“I am sharing some more personal stuff because it is easy for people to focus on Veronica but the reality is, she is one of hundreds needing our help. The toll on the children and families trying to help them is huge!  It is sometimes seen as a grand, wonderful thing to support a cause but the reality is – it is hard and dirty for those on the front lines. I know people are shouting hurray for some of the leaders of Save Veronica -but truly MVERONICA SUPPORTERS – What You Need to Know: and M are the heroes and the attorneys who helped them

–          The work is hard.

–          The financial price is high.

–          The emotional stress is devastating.

–          Saving the children is priceless.

Helping case by case is important but an organized effort to take down the ICWA is essential. If we can get rid of the ICWA the individual cases will decline. We need some heavy hitters to get involved.

I know you know most of this but so many have no idea:

1)      Attorneys won’t work for free….we lost 2 attorneys because we couldn’t pay them. They showed up for court and before they left said it would be the last time they would be representing us. We then had to come up with $5000 to retain a new attorney.

2)      ICWA are specialty cases. You can’t just get any old Joe…we learned this the hard way. Our original attorney said he could do an ICWA case and told us he knew what he was doing and had a friend who could help him if he had questions. This attorney in reality had no idea what he was doing. Before it was over we had 4 different attorneys. Oh, and had 2 judges.

3)      Emotional stress is very high…A person tends to run pretty efficiently when you are fighting but it takes a toll. My husband would head off to work and I would do as much as I could all day while watching the kids, making phone calls and such.  When he got home, he watched the kids and I got busy working on the computer and reading and researching. I would stay up until 2 or 3 every night. There was so much to do and we didn’t have an army to help us.

4)      One has to work hard to guard their children from all of the chaos. We work so hard to keep the kids from the reality of the situation. They did not know they were on TV or that someone was trying to get their brother. This was a daily effort on our part.

5)      Addressing all the struggles he was having because of visitations was huge.  We spoke with a physiologist friend, a few attachment therapists, and did lots of research. We started homeschooling mostly because we knew he couldn’t handle public school at the time. We tried diets, discipline techniques, and medicines.

6)      Our marriage… LOL – Our dates were a meal after court. We couldn’t afford a sitter and we didn’t want to ask my mom to babysit for something that seemed frivolous. She watched the kids for us for every court date, visitation, attorney meeting, therapist meeting, GAL meeting, etc… every time the media would come to interview she would take the kids so they didn’t know what was happening. She helped soooo much.

7)      We had support from our community, family and church but it was still very, very hard.

8)      When the adoption was finally done we went into a mode of relief and relaxation. I remember enjoying lots of bubble baths… LOL – We would stay up and watch TV instead of reading court documents. We made a lot of popcorn at night and both gained about 10 lbs – LOL. We hardly knew what to do…I think we needed the rest but maybe let the pendulum swing to long. There was still much we had to do. Our family needed some repairing and our little boy needed some help but the constant necessity to be driven was over.

9)      Fundraising is so important – It seems there are so many places to give and times are tight right now but this fight takes money. Our case cost over $150,000 and we didn’t even end up going to trial [because the birth mom changed her mind and ended up wanting us to have him.] The bills from our attorneys every month were often bigger than our monthly income. Yes, we would have months when our bill might be $5000. It could be more or less…but just to get an idea.

Some adoptive parents, like us, are required to sign contracts with bio-parents and tribal government. It is unknown whether this was part of the negotiations Matt & Melanie went through. However, these can be hard to deal with as well.

–          We had to sign an agreement with the tribe and bio-mom. The adoption agency contacts me every year to make certain we comply with terms. The tribe has NEVER contacted us.  Only one time when I asked for some information did we hear from them and the effort to fulfill our request was pathetic.

–          The tribe had us sign that we would take trips to the reservation and visit family there and bring the bio-mother with us (she does not live on the reservation.)  Also we are to do things with her and her extended family yearly, like pow-wows, and pick up the bio-mom and transport her there.  (BTW – bio-mom told us she doesn’t believe in pow-wows and such because she is a Christian)

–          We have not heard from our son’s bio mom since Valentine’s Day.  She will do that…then will call a few times a week for awhile, making promises she won’t keep, and then…off the radar for who knows how long.

–          Bio-mom is not required to make any effort. We do all the work. The tribe who fought so hard for him has had nothing to do with him since.

 

Anyway, people need to know this is not a $20,000 regular adoption cost, it is not an easy, happy road.  Like my husband said, when it comes to ICWA cases, logic is gone. You are dealing with illogical thinking from that point on. We found that to be one of the hardest things.

We couldn’t believe how it seemed there was absolutely no common sense involved with the case and decisions.

Christian Ministry

Sep 142013
 
Washington DC, January 2011

Yes, Veronica, there may be no Santa Claus, but there is a God and there is work being done to amend ICWA.

Washington DC, February 2013

Washington DC, February 2013

Some very kind, concerned supporters of justice have begun a petition to amend the Indian Child Welfare Act. We appreciate the effort very, very much.   But after having been urged several times to act on the petition, I need to explain why we an’t work on the petition.

Many of our newer friends are unaware that draft legislation to amend the ICWA has already been written and presented to various Congressmen.   I am a little afraid of possibly a conflict in wording or goals.

This legislation was written by one of the best ICWA attorneys in the nation and introduced by the Coalition for the ‘Protection of Indian Children and Families’ to legislative offices last summer, 2012.  The ICWA attorney based his wording on the primary reasons families are coming to him for help – the most noted issues with how ICWA was hurting children and families.

It has been on somewhat of a hold during the Veronica proceedings.  Well… actually, the hold was only meant to be until the United States Supreme Court had ruled.  Congressmen needed to know what the Justices had to say about the case before they could move forward further with the bill.

The court has ruled – but these last two months have been nuts, taking everyone’s time and energy.  Further, Congress recesses in August.

BUT – it is now September.  Thank you all for the reminder concerning the legislation.  According to attorney’s I have consulted – because no real resources of our organization are being spent or used on the legislation – and because I don’t get paid by CAICW but am entirely volunteer, there isn’t much concern about my discussing it a little bit.

So it is time to get back into the saddle with the legislation. I will be rolling up my sleeves and leaving for DC as soon as I put various things in order here at home – hopefully within the next couple weeks.

For your information, here is the amendment wording as it stood last summer.  There MIGHT be changes made following the Veronica events. I can’t say for certain as I am not an attorney.  But this is what we stood on last summer.

 ICWA Amendments 11-11-12

 

PLEASE join us in urging your Congress members – as well as the President – to change ICWA.

 

Washington DC, January 2011

Washington DC, January 2011

 

 

 

Keep Dissing Non-Indians. It brings more people to our site, frightened for their kids ~

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Sep 132013
 
Beth, September 1987
3 enrollable kids

3 eligible kids, happily living with family outside of control of “Indian Country,” without “Split Feather.”

NEWS FLASH:  MOST children targeted by ICWA are multi-racial. Statements by ICWA supporters that Non-members have NO RIGHT to speak about the Indian Child Welfare Act are born of prejudice and delusion …. and are terrifying people.

These statements are made as if hundreds of thousands of enrollable children across the United States do NOT have  non-member birth parents currently raising them successfully – and non-native extended family.

Hello? EVEN VERONICA was born of a non-member mother.  Hello? Veronica has a maternal grandfather who is 100% Hispanic.  What is he, chopped liver?

IMPORTANTLY – – when people make the statement that non-members have no right to speak – what they are saying is that I don’t have a right to speak up for my own kids.   If people don’t think I have any right to speak up about how ICWA works, despite the rhetoric from their own mouths that any enrollable child is “THEIR” child (which would include my children and grandchildren) – and the Tribal Industry claims of potential jurisdiction over MY OWN KIDS and grandkids – – THINK AGAIN.

Like a mother bear, I become even more determined to fight back against those threatening my family.  I become even more determined to fight back against hate-filled people who assume they know my children better than I do – and more determined to fight to my death (yup) to DESTROY this horrendous, unconstitutional, racist, hateful, prejudice, child-stealing law called ICWA.  It is rhetoric like that that fuels me.

Keep it up!  Keep claiming that birth parents and extended family of hundreds of thousands of enrollable children don’t matter at all.  You are doing my work for me – angering almost every non-native family member across the United States. (excepting for non-native family members who have bought the Tribal Industry rhetoric hook, line and sinker.)

PLEASE – KEEP SAYING THAT A CHILD’S OTHER HERITAGES AND FAMILY DON’T MATTER.   Your honesty is doing amazing press for us.   By blurting out your true bottom line as to how ICWA has been written and why – you are opening eyes that would otherwise never have realized that ICWA could affect their families as well.

It is dawning on people that if they, as parents, got in a car wreck, their extended family might have to fight a tribe for custody of their kids.  Grandparents are realizing that if their son or daughter were in a car wreck, a dishonest tribal court could tell them, as grandparents, that they have no right to raise their grandchildren.

You are terrifying families of eligible children every time you open your mouths and claim their kids as your own – every time you make hateful and racist statements toward family members of kids who could potentially end up targeted by ICWA.

I don’t even have to spend money on press releases – You are doing it for us.

Thank you for being so open as to what you honestly feel about the families of so many of America’s children.

 

Non-member mother with eligible child, January 1983

Non-member mother with eligible child, January 1983

 

 

Mr. Brown’s Testimony in Family Court

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Sep 082013
 
Matt, Melanie & Veronica Capobianco

Matt, Melanie and Veronica Capobianco

 

Mr. Dusten Brown’s personal testimony in the original family court concerning his interest in marrying birth mother Christinna Maldonado and his later abandonment of Veronica Capobianco.

It is good for all supports and detractors to read and consider this full testimony because it reveals points to the story that should give pause to advocates on both sides.  It is important for us all to be able to read, think, and pray about all aspects and know with certainty where we stand on various issues.

While Mr. Brown makes clear that he initially wanted to be married and take care of Christinna and Veronica, there is also an implication that Christinna might have backed away due to weekends he had spent with drinking buddies off base rather than coming home to be with her during the pregnancy.  For any mother who has been in such a position, that is very understandable.

While Mr. Brown’s supporters have shared liberally over the last few weeks the portions of Ms. Maldonado’s testimony that appear to discredit her, it would be good to be able to read the portions of her cross examination that have been held back – those portions which give her testimony explaining her motivation.  I look forward to obtaining that testimony.

Also – I have some discomfort with the assertion that the Capobiancos are “wealthy” and “connected” simply because Mr. Brown said so in his testimony – even if he claims a Guardian ad Litem told his family so.  That doesn’t mean it is was actually said, and even if it was, it doesn’t mean the GAL was correct.  Having known the C’s for a couple years now, I don’t believe those accusations in the testimony are true at all.

I further do not believe that it was the birth mother’s, the C’s, or the states responsibility to contact Mr. Brown and offer visits or pictures. As a man who knew he was a father and admitted in the testimony that he was aware of his obligations as a father – he had a responsibility to “man up” during those months and do what he needed to do.  Many, many service men are fathers – and many are even fathers without custody.  Most find ways to continue to uphold their obligations.

The laws of both Oklahoma and South Carolina agree and were enacted to ensure that men follow through with those obligations if they intend to father their children.  This is why Mr. Brown has been losing legally in both state courts ever since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that ICWA did not apply.

This testimony also contradicts claims of Brown’s supporters that Mr. Brown himself did not claim to have a Bronze Star.  He is quoted here as saying that he does.

It also contradicts the claim that he had been fighting for custody of Veronica since birth.

Again – my question is, that knowing he was about to be deployed in a few days – and already locked down to base – why he had not made any attempt (by his own admission) to contact Christinna and see Veronica prior to deployment.   He knew that it would be months before  he returned to the states.  At that point, Veronica would have been almost a year old without a father in her life.

The only reason he hired an attorney and began a process in January, 2010, was because he had been served the adoption waiver.  Other than that, he would have left for Iraq without questioning Veronica’s whereabouts, period. 

One can not read his testimony and come to any other conclusion.

When I consider that, it is obvious that Christinna did the right thing – giving Veronica a father from the moment she was born.

From the moment Veronica was born, Matt was there.   While Mr. Brown was nursing the hurt of rejection (understandable) and  justifying his reasons for not making contact (not understandable), Matt was in the birthing room, cutting Veronica’s cord and welcoming her into the world.

Mr. Dusten Brown’s Family Court Testimony, 2011

 

Veronica Capobianco

Veronica Capobianco

Sep 072013
 
FAMILY, 2000

Julie – my husband was a man of 100% Minnesota Chippewa heritage. He grew up on the Leech Lake Reservation in the 1950’s. He didn’t speak English until he was 5 years old and began kindergarten. His fondest memories were of “ricing season” – the time in the Baptism 1994early fall when the wild rice was ripe on the lake and the community would pitch tents down there and spend a couple weeks “ricing” the traditional way. He said it was like the Christmas Holiday is for us.

We had five children together and raised four of his relatives’ children as well. They were placed with us through ICWA – their parents were addicted to crack. So that was nine kids total. When the four came to stay with us, they were all very young. The youngest was only a year old. I had 8 kids under the age of 8 at the time (and one 12-year-old)

It was, as you can imagine, very difficult. I raised all of the kids to the age of 18. I kept the four even through my husband’s terminal illness. You see, he was very afraid of turning them back to the tribe – even though we were struggling very hard to raise them all. He had seen too many very bad things happen to children in his family. He knew what his extended family was capable of doing to children. We knew of physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect. I was at the funeral of a 2-yr-old who was beaten to death. I chased a drunk off of a 10-yr-old girl. He didn’t know I was on the bed when he pushed her onto my legs, trying to take her pants off. And there is so much more.

As a man of 100% heritage – my husband had made the decision to raise his kids elsewhere, off the reservation, because of the danger and corruption going on at Leech Lake.

The fact is – he isn’t alone. 75% of tribal members, (according to the last two U.S. censuses) do NOT live on the reservation. Many have left for the same reason he did (not all have left for the same reasons – but many)

Roland & GirlsBecause of his fear of his children ever being raised on the reservation, he feared what would happen if we both died. He had also become a Christian and had led me to the Lord. He was determined to raise his children Christian and so wanted me to be a Christian as well. He did not want the tribe to move the kids to the reservation or place them with relatives. If he died, he wanted one of our Christian friends to finish raising our kids.

So – it is for all these reasons that he disliked the Indian Child Welfare Act and began to speak out against it. This was in the 1990’s. We made a website – and as we wrote about the law, people across the country began to contact him.

You see, at the time, when you would google ICWA – all you would get is all the sites that supported ICWA. Ours was the only one that didn’t. So people began to contact us and ask for help. Tribal members and non-members. Birth parents, foster parents, and adoptive parents.

Their stories broke our hearts. Lots of abuse of children – by tribal governments. But we were just two parents, no different than them. Roland continued to speak up though, and had opportunity to give testimony to the Senate Committee, among other opportunities.

In February 2004, we founded the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare – so we could help other families better. It has been a blessing every time we have been able to help someone – because we are small and simply do the best we can. We give all credit to God for whatever we are able to do.

When Melanie Capobianco first contacted us in July of 2011, we did our best to help her as well. I have found her to be a very sweet, kind, thoughtful, woman. She has been able to back up everything she has said with documentation. According to Oklahoma law, there is only 90 days after birth in which a father can show his interest in paternity. If he does not do this, he loses his right to object to an adoption. He is not considered a legal parent.

Mr. Brown exceeded that. He also exceeded the limits under South Carolina law. He admitted in the first family court – documented on the court record for all to see – that he did not, in truth, make any attempt to contact, inquire about, or provide for this baby in any way, shape or form. By the laws of both states, he had lost his right to object to an adoption. In the meantime, Matt Capobianco was there at the birth and cut the cord. THAT is the fact that the states have been ruling on.

Therefore, when MrChristinna Maldonado & Veronica Capobianco. Brown took the Capobianco’s little girl, without the benefit of any transition, breaking Veronica’s heart for the only parents she had ever known in her 27 months – it was seen by many of us as extremely selfish on the part of Mr. Brown, and that is how our judgment of him has stood. He did not care at all about Veronica’s need for the only parents she had known and was bonded to.

It was also seen as extremely selfish of the tribal government – which cares nothing about Veronica’s majority heritage. No one stops for a moment to consider whether Veronica, as a teen, might prefer to identify with the Hispanic heritage of her birth mother. If she chooses to identify as Hispanic – will she be allowed to? If she would like to meet her birth mother, who she was allowed to see while she was with the Capobiancos, will she be allowed to?

~ Do those who are demanding that she identify as a Native American truly care who she is as an individual with her own mind and heart? Or are they trying to stuff her into a box and make her into who THEY want her to be?

I just wanted you to know all this – as one Christian mother to another – both of us being mother’s in multi-heritage families.

Bless your heart; I am confused as to why you would send unkind emails to other Christian women. In the name of Jesus – please understand that these other women are not evil. They are simply seeing other aspects to this case then you have been seeing.

Father & Daughter: Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare (CAICW)http://dyinginindiancountry.com

Sep 042013
 

Father and Daughter

Some wonder why Capobianco supporters don’t side with a father whose child is being taken from him. Some have even questioned the authenticity of Christians who would support the Capobiancos. (Forgetting that even Jesus was raised by an adoptive father.)

One must understand that many Capobianco supporters have been there since the day they first saw, either in person or on video, the horror of not only having one’s child taken, but –

1) taken without the benefit of a caring transition, and –

2) taken solely due to 1% heritage, (as the father’s admitted abandonment of the child would have prevailed otherwise.)

Just 1.12% heritage.

Since then, the Cherokee Nation has put on a show, shaking signs that claim “genocide” and claiming that “white people” are stealing “Indian” babies.

1.12% heritage.

If a C supporter brings up the 1% heritage, their statement is twisted and they are accused of racism – despite that it was the Cherokee Nation that brought the 1% into issue.

1.12% heritage.

As much as the Cherokee Nation, ‘Indian Country Today’, NICWA, NARF, and others want to spin it as a “citizen” issue – it is not spinning. Very few people – including many tribal members in Oklahoma and elsewhere – are falling for the “citizen” claim – especially when “citizenship” is being forced on children.

At 1.12% heritage.

Ardent supporters of the Cherokee Nation, either purposefully spinning for PR or snowed by their own rhetoric, fail to see how disgusted many others are by the claim that “white people” are stealing “Indian” babies.. Many Americans can see that claim for the dishonesty it is – but few have wanted to speak it. While it is okay for a tribal entity to speak in terms of race and percentages, it is deemed “racist” for anyone else to. But I will say what is on the hearts of many. This was no Indian Child being stolen by “White” people.

It was a Caucasian/Hispanic child, stolen by a tribe.

That is the bottom line.

As the Cherokee Nation continues to encourage and assist Mr. Brown in defying state and federal law, it is an overtly obvious fact. And that is why the Cherokee Nation and tribal governments in general aren’t getting the traction on their genocide spin (outside of  ‘Indian Country Today’) that they somehow thought they would.

When you are talking about OUR children – which this child was – NOT an Indian child – you should expect hostility when trying to claim that child as the Tribe’s.

AND if 60 more tribal governments attempt to lower their membership criteria – as 60 are talking about doing – to CN levels and begin to target children of minute heritage – as the Cherokee Tribe has – they should not expect to get sympathy. They should expect a strong push back.

They should expect push back because now, due to the Veronica horror – a whole lot of Americans who would have otherwise remained oblivious to the issue, have woken up to what is happening and are outraged by the ICWA stories they are hearing. Many now want ICWA to be repealed.

Americans’ are not buying the rhetoric that tribal governments should have jurisdiction over children of 1% heritage. It is hard enough to justify ICWA jurisdiction over a child who is 25% tribal heritage – as the child is still 75% another heritage. Even children of a parent who is 100% – such as my own – have a right to be free from tribal government jurisdiction. Even individuals of 100% heritage have a right to be free of tribal government interference in their lives and families – if that is what they choose.

So do we feel angry? Yup.

Is there a Christian purpose and righteousness in that anger? Absolutely.

– “And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.” (Mark 10:13-16 ESV)

Having raised nine tribal members, five of whom are my birth children, and seen much tragedy, child abuse, sexual abuse, suicide, and other horrors on more than a few reservations – and having an advisory board and membership of parents who have raised, adopted and witnessed the same – we know far too much about tribal governments seeking children for the federal dollars, then showing little or no interest in what happens to them once they have been “retrieved” for the tribe and placed with a member. We won’t be bullied or intimidated.

We have known of far too many kids abused in ICWA homes, and some even murdered.

(Don’t even try to argue that point with me; I had been an ICWA approved home myself for 17 years. I know how little the tribal social services paid attention.)

So, concerning this particular case, in summary – for those who are flabbergasted that we would not be supporting the father – understand this: from the get-go,

1) Mr. Brown has been seen as an extremely selfish man.

2) The Cherokee Nation has been seen as an extremely selfish organization – using this child as a political pawn.

What appalls us is that not only were Mr. Brown and the Cherokee Nation willing to hurt this child deeply the first time a transfer took place – by taking her without any concern for her need of a transition – but even worse, Mr. Brown and the Cherokee Nation are now willing to do it to her a 2nd time.

How in the world are we expected to sympathize with people who do that?

https://caicw.org/2013/09/01/taking-veronica-from-a-loving-father/

Elizabeth Sharon Morris is Chairwoman of the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare, columnist for Women’s Voices Magazine, and author of ‘Dying in Indian Country.’ http://dyinginindiancountry.com a dramatic true story of transformation and hope.

Sep 012013
 

Why Did the State Order that Veronica be Adopted?
By Elizabeth Sharon Morris

As the drama concerning Veronica Rose Capobianco plays out for the media in Oklahoma, some ask how and why a State could order a child adopted when the birth father has stepped forward and wants to raise his child.

The Baby Veronica case in Oklahoma is very complicated. Baby Veronica spent the first twenty-seven months of her life with Matt and Melanie Capobianco. At the request of Veronica’s birth mother, Matt and Melanie were in the birthing room and Matt cut the cord. They had an open and proper adoption agreement and good relationship with the mother, and no court or attorney has every accused them of being unfit or having committed any crime.

This isn’t a case where adoptive parents have appeared out of nowhere. Their home was the only home Veronica knew – and they were her only parents.

Further, the sole reason that South Carolina family court gave custody to the father at the end of December, 2011, allowing Mr. Brown to take this child without any transition period at all, was because the judge thought that the Indian Child Welfare Act required it. It was not due to the “best interest of the child” because the Cherokee Nation, fearing that “best interest” would mean leaving her with the only parents she knew at the time, argued that ICWA didn’t allow for a ‘Best Interest’ hearing.  The tribal attorneys wanted the decision to be made on the basis of ICWA alone.

The high courts, however, looked at all the evidence presented and not only ruled that ICWA did not apply to this case, but that the father – despite claims to the contrary – had abandoned his child. States have laws concerning paternal abandonment so that mothers and children are able to move forward with their lives. Adoptive parents must also be able to come forward without fear that a father could show up any time and disrupt things. If there were no abandonment laws, adoptive parents would be risking everything – not just money, but their hearts and the hearts of extended family.

This particular birth father had texted the mother prior to birth and stated he was giving up his rights. After Veronica was born, he made no attempt to support or even inquire about the baby. In fact, contrary to what has been claimed, he was not surprised by the papers served to him in January 2010. Reports are that he had ducked service of the adoption papers, possibly thinking they were for child support, all autumn.

The judges looked at the facts presented by all the parties and concluded that he had abandoned his child. They also agreed – and the father’s attorneys admitted – that the birth mother has done nothing wrong. Her legal team had taken all the steps required by law.

Mind you – up until the papers were served on Mr. Brown that January day, he had not shown any concern for this baby, although he thought Veronica was with her mother and he knew where the mother lived, what her phone number was, and where she worked. Four months passed. How many more months would have passed if the papers he hadn’t been served that day? Further, when Mr. Brown came back from deployment for a few weeks in August 2010, he made no attempt to contact or visit his child. Nor did he make any attempt after he returned again in December 2010.

While it is very sad and one can feel pain for the Brown family, it has to be understood that Mr. Brown made very poor decisions in relation to his daughter four years ago. As a result of those poor decisions, another family became involved and raised this child as their own for 27 months. There are consequences to poor decisions. Changing one’s mind doesn’t erase those consequences, especially when it involves the hearts and lives of others.

Where it comes to the most important heart of all – Veronica’s – there is no doubt that she was well-bonded to the Capobiancos and there is reason to believe she could still remember them. Mr. Brown’s continual refusal to allow the Capobiancos to even see her raised the question of what he was afraid of.

But every day this drama drags out brings new revelation as to the character of Mr. and Mrs. Brown. Dodging the law and instructing your child to “Kick, scream, hit, punch, and spit” when people “come to get her” not only calls into question one’s parenting skills, but calls into question one’s true concern for her.

When the Capobiancos were faced with having to turn their daughter over to the Brown’s, despite the fact they still had appeals available, they did as ordered. Their hearts were broken, but Melanie did her best not to show it to Veronica because she wanted the transition to be as easy on Veronica as possible. She told Veronica that she will be going with some nice people to a new home, and that they would see her soon. Of course, Veronica still cried and held her arms out as Matt and Melanie were leaving. It isn’t possible to totally remove the trauma. All you can do is try to reduce it as much as possible.

Many empathize with a father having to give up his daughter and believe Mr. Brown has a right to ignore attempts at mediation and visitation meant to ease the transition. In fact, they believe he would be right to fight back and create as much drama as possible should it come down to a forced removal.

Veronica was no less Matt and Melanie’s daughter. Now imagine trying to give up your daughter as Melanie did. Though overcome with grief, not wanting your child to be afraid, you smile through the tears and tell your baby girl it’s all going to be okay.

One has to ask, in terms of Solomon, who it is that is tearing this child apart.

 

Elizabeth Sharon Morris is Chairwoman of the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare, columnist for Women’s Voices Magazine, and author of ‘Dying in Indian Country.’ http://dyinginindiancountry.com a dramatic true story of transformation and hope.

PRESS CONFERENCE: CAPOBIANCO’S – 11AM EASTERN

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Aug 142013
 

* * * MEDIA ADVISORY * * *Adoptive Couple vs Baby Girl
Veronica’s adoptive parents have traveled to Oklahoma. A press conference will be held to update media on the latest developments of their ongoing efforts to bring Veronica home to South Carolina.

WHO:
Matt and Melanie Capobianco – Veronica’s Legal Parents
Jessica Munday – Friend and Spokesperson
Troy Dunn – Nationally Recognized Adoption Reunion Facilitator
WHAT:
Press Conference

WHEN:
8 a.m. PT – 9 a.m. MT – 10 a.m. CT – 11 a.m. ET
Wednesday, August 14, 2013

WHERE:
Hyatt Regency Hotel – Oklahoma Room
1st Floor
100 East 2nd Street
Downtown Tulsa, OK 74103

Conference Call Line
(712) 432-0180
Code: 741165#

WHY:
As promised by the Capobiancos, they have traveled to Oklahoma in hopes of seeing their daughter and bringing her home. They will discuss where they are in that process and we will update press regarding ongoing legal efforts.

BABY VERONICA UPDATE; The Battle Continues.

 Comments Off on BABY VERONICA UPDATE; The Battle Continues.
Aug 072013
 

Attorney for the Bio-Mom cuts through the rhetoric –

Oklahoma resident Dusten Brown and family defy court order, ignore scheduled visit on Sunday.  Cherokee Nation Attorney Chrissi Nimmo then defended his behavior with excuses.  But in this news interview below, attorney for bio-mom sets the facts straight.

 

BABY VERONICA UPDATE: Battle Continues. Time to Cut through the Rhetoric

 

 Adoptive Couple vs Baby Girl

Is the BIA Another Corrupt Bureaucracy?

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Jun 082013
 
Roland and his newborn, 1990

On June 9, 2013, as our family honors the June 9, 2004 anniversary of Roland J. Roland and Heidi, 1990 Morris, Sr.’s passing, I feel called to bring his memory and his brave actions to the attention of our newest members and supporters, many who may be unfamiliar with Roland’s legacy.

Roland and I founded CAICW in February 2004 to fill a critical need for all families affected by the ICWA and the destructive forces of reservation life. In my book, ‘Dying in Indian Country,’ I chronicle our family’s own struggles and losses as a result of Indian policy, our decision to leave and our ultimate redemption through Jesus Christ. Roland and I both believed then, as I still do now, that the solutions to the problems we seek to expose and resolve rest in the hands of God. Even on the hardest days, we must trust Him to provide the direction and the answers to our prayers. In the meantime, CAICW remains committed to our original Christian ministry to share His Word while advocating for families at risk of harm due to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Our efforts are judicial and educational, as well as a prayer resource for families and a shoulder to cry on.

Roland, of 100% heritage, spoke Ojibwe as his first language. He was born and raised on the Leech Lake Reservation in Minnesota and spent his entire life watching friends and family die—physically, spiritually and emotionally—from the effects of alcoholism, drugs, violence and suicide. He himself was a survivor of these destructive behaviors and the more he came to know God, the more convinced he became that monumental change was needed to help his people.

He was especially concerned for the children and distressed by the lack of concern he witnessed by many adults within Indian country. He longed for the self-destruction to stop. God led Roland to step out and speak up for change in Indian country. It took great courage to do so then and it still does. Today, nine years after Roland’s passing, instead of hearing about positive change in Indian country, we continue to witness more of the same abuse and neglect, but on a much larger, more evil scale. And yet, tribal and federal government officials continue to turn a blind eye to the situation.

Roland was particularly concerned about the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), whose dictates perpetuate the abuse of children with Indian heritage by entrapping them in corrupt tribal systems. Instead of providing for the best concerns and welfare of children, this law has served to financially prop up corrupt tribal governments, more often serving the best interest of the tribe, social workers and federal officials than the children it is suppose to serve. The most high profile example of the complications and abuse of this law today are exemplified by the “Baby Veronica” case heard in April 2013, by the United States Supreme Court. In Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, two-year-old Veronica had been given for adoption as a newborn by her non-Indian mother, only to be later removed from the only home she ever knew on the basis of 1.12% Cherokee heritage.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hand down their ruling this month.

Not long before Roland’s passing, in April 2004, the Minneapolis Star Tribune published a series by Larry Oakes entitled, ‘The Lost Youth of Leech Lake,’ which chronicled many horrific accounts of destruction and despair happening to the children of Leech Lake. While the series initially caused a great stir, in the end it was not enough to bring about any significant change.

One of the victims highlighted in the series became an integral part of CAICW’s continued mission to expose the abuses in Indian country and urge action to bring positive change. Sierra Goodman, who was first given to a man to be used for sex at the age of ten, attempted to run away more than a dozen times to return to the only family she felt loved and safe with—a non-Indian foster family she had initially been placed with then taken away from because of the ICWA. After attempting to hang herself at the age of 16, Sarah was finally allowed to return to the family who loved her. This past February, Sierra joined CAICW in Washington, D.C. to personally tell her story to lawmakers and urge them to make changes to the ICWA by sighting the physical and emotional damage she has suffered as a result of the law.

As Roland spoke out against Indian policy, he appeared in numerous newspaper articles across the country. On May 14, 2004, Washington Times reporter Jennifer Lehner wrote:

“Mr. Morris said that once children are relocated to the reservations, they are subject to the corrupt law of the tribal government. Instead of preserving culture…the tribal leadership uses the ICWA to acquire funds provided through the legislation…ICWA is supposed to help children, but instead it helps tribal governments.”

Nine years later, tribal governments are no less corrupt, and the ICWA has become an integral funding source for all tribal issues. Lawyers, social service programs, social service workers, care providers, grant writers, foundations and tribal leadership are all getting rich as a result of this law. In the meantime, the children continue to suffer. In the past year, people we have seen new voices speaking to these concerns. The New York Times and Frontline’s Kind Hearted Woman documentary revealed these same issues and the abuses taking place on the Spirit Lake Reservation of North Dakota. Thomas Sowell penned the article, “Whose Welfare? The Injustice of the Indian Child Welfare Act,” in a January 2013 National Review Online article, while former Oglala Sioux Tribal Judge Patrick Lee recently wrote about the problems in his article “Why I filed a complaint against the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council.”

After attending a South Dakota conference in May that was aimed at hearing the grievances of reservation tribal members affected by the ICWA, native author David Rooks penned an article in the Rapid City Journal titled, “Rooks: Questions unasked, unanswered.” Rook is brave enough to write,

“Have there been problems with the implementation of ICWA? You bet. But while we’re gathered, let’s ask some additional questions. Questions, perhaps, no one wants to ask, like: Why are so many Native children winding up in foster care?”

He goes on to state,

“If we’re to be honest, we’ll look at each other and ask: What is going on with our families? What really is the problem? How do we restore our own cultural imperatives? How do we—not someone else—mend our own Sacred Hoop? Yes, children are sacred. Why is it so many of ours need to flee our people to be safe?”

Yes, like Roland did, people are finding their voices to bravely speak out and expose the truth, but after 13 Mandated Reports about the abuse of children on the Spirit Lake, ND reservation and NOT ONE SINGLE action being taken is it possible that change will never come to Indian country? Are the problems in Indian country just another long-running scandal the federal government is working 24-7 to keep in the dark? In honor of Roland, and most importantly for the sake of the children, I urge you to continue to vigilantly monitor and speak up about these atrocities. The U.S. Constitution defends the rights of all U.S. citizens and CAICW is calling on our government to equally protect children of all heritages.

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

In memory of Minnesota Chippewa tribal member Roland J. Morris, Sr., the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare is sponsoring an essay contest on June 9-15, 2013, to draw attention to the widespread and ongoing physical and sexual abuse of children living within Indian Country. The topic of the contest is ‘Why Children Are More Important Than Politics’ with a subtopic of ‘Why Is Our Federal Government Ignoring Ongoing Child Abuse?

The 800-1500 word submissions can be sent to WriteUs@caicw.org.

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

Other Stories:

Native Daughter: The Baby Ashlyn Story

A Tribe’s Epidemic of Child Sex Abuse, Minimized for Years

The Daily Republic: OUR VIEW: State wrongly demonized in ICWA debate

Native Mob takedown: a closer look at the charges [PHOTOS]

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, and 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/

Wake Up & Read It! VAWA Protects Tribal Government rights, NOT women!

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Feb 282013
 

.

On February 12, 2013, a horrid violence against women was committed when Mother holding babythe ‘Violence against Women Act’ was passed by the U.S. Senate by a 78-22 vote with all amendments intact.  Women across the nation were thrown under a bus.

On February 28, 2013, the U.S. House repeated the violence with 87 Republicans joining 199 Democrats to pass the bill 286-138. God only knows if this callous assault on women can be stopped. The measure now heads to Obama’s desk.

Obama said in a statement. “Renewing this bill is an important step towards making sure no one in America is forced to live in fear, and I look forward to signing it into law as soon as it hits my desk.”

Does no one actually read these things? We are discussing women and young girls who have been vulnerable and already victimized – being forced into further victimization.  Where is the language in the VAWA that tribal government can only have jurisdiction under informed consent and absent objection of the victim?

If there is none, is this Act protecting the rights of women, or the rights of tribal government?

I asked this question to both Ms. Tracee Sutton and Ms. Gail Hand from Senator Hetkamp’s office. Both were silent in response.

I understand that most of our Congressmen on the Hill have never been in the situation of being a victim within Indian Country. I understand that they might not be aware the ramifications these amendments will have on tribal and non-tribal women.  Reading the recent report by Mr. Thomas F. Sullivan, Administration of Children and Families in Denver of the severe corruption and abuse on the Spirit Lake Reservation might shed some light on the problem. If even a portion of what he is saying is true, our Congress has no right for mandating tribal jurisdiction over U.S. citizens.

Never assume that simply because a woman is of tribal heritage, she wants her case to be heard in tribal court. A person does not know the meaning of “Good ol’ Boy’s Club” until one has dealt with some of the tribal courts.  On top of this, our government has given all tribal courts full faith and credit, meaning once the case is ruled on in tribal court, the victim can’t go to the county or state for justice.

And while many enrolled women will be upset when told their options have been limited, please realize that multi-racial marriages and relationships are very, very common in Indian Country and non-member women are no small number in domestic violence cases within reservation boundaries.

Further, it is interesting that in the language in section 4(A) below, describing under what conditions in which there would be an exception to tribal jurisdiction, the defendant is addressed more than the victim. It doesn’t matter what heritage the woman is – that isn’t the deciding factor for tribal jurisdiction. The language below addresses the perp’s relationship to Indian Country as the deciding factor.

In fact, under this section, ‘victim’ is defined and limited to only women who have obtained a protective order.  In other words, women who DON’T have a protective order would NOT be considered victims under the exception section, and thus, no matter what, are subject to tribal jurisdiction.

FURTHER – the words, “in the Indian country of the participating tribe” are used over and over. Do you know what this means? I will tell you what it doesn’t mean. It DOESN’T mean inside reservation boundaries.  But I can’t tell you what it DOES mean as far as how many miles outside the boundaries it extends – because, apparently, that is up the tribal government and BIA.

Yes, friends.  A woman, off the reservation, who is assaulted by a person whom she might not even be aware is a tribal member (we talked about multi-heritage relationships, right?) might find herself fighting for justice in a tribal court.

… But trying to read the legalese in section 4, I have to ask, if both the victim and perp are non-Indians, but the victim doesn’t have a protective order…? (Who writes this stuff?)

It appears that the language has been written to protect the defendants, specifically enrolled men, from state and federal jurisdiction.  They might come down hard on a non-member, but given the track history of many tribal courts – do not doubt that this bill will end up protecting certain men and further victimizing many women.

This type of language throws women of all heritages under the bus.  Not only could enrolled women be forced into a court predominantly run by her ex’s relatives, but non-tribal women, viewed as outsiders no matter how long they have lived in ‘Indian Country’, could be forced to share their horrific story and plea for justice in a room full of potentially hostile relatives and friends of the defendant.

How many women will simply suffer in silence rather than attempt to be heard in tribal court?  How do laws like this seriously protect an already victimized woman?  What can be done to ensure that victims know they have the option to refuse tribal jurisdiction and seek justice elsewhere?

Further – could you please tell me in what manner women who would be affected by these amendments were consulted?  During the discussion of these amendments, what non-tribal entity or organization represented and advocated for needs of women who live within Indian Country?

 

PLEASE URGE PRESIDENT OBAMA NOT TO SIGN THIS HORRIBLE VERSION OF THE VAWA!

 

`SEC. 204. TRIBAL JURISDICTION OVER CRIMES OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.

`(4) EXCEPTIONS-

`(A) VICTIM AND DEFENDANT ARE BOTH NON-INDIANS-

`(i) IN GENERAL- A participating tribe may not exercise special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction over an alleged offense if neither the defendant nor the alleged victim is an Indian.

`(ii) DEFINITION OF VICTIM- In this subparagraph and with respect to a criminal proceeding in which a participating tribe exercises special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction based on a violation of a protection order, the term `victim’ means a person specifically protected by a protection order that the defendant allegedly violated.

`(B) DEFENDANT LACKS TIES TO THE INDIAN TRIBE- A participating tribe may exercise special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction over a defendant only if the defendant–

`(i) resides in the Indian country of the participating tribe;

`(ii) is employed in the Indian country of the participating tribe; or

`(iii) is a spouse, intimate partner, or dating partner of–

`(I) a member of the participating tribe; or

`(II) an Indian who resides in the Indian country of the participating tribe.
Elizabeth Sharon Morris
Chairwoman
Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare (CAICW)

Author

Dying in Indian Country
PO Box 253
Hillsboro, ND 58045
administrator@caicw.org
https://caicw.org

Twitter: http://twitter.com/CAICW   ( @CAICW )
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/fbCAICW.org

 

Washington D.C. Feb 4-8, 2013: Lawmakers—The Good, The Bad and What Can You Do Next

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Feb 102013
 

by Elizabeth Sharon Morris

The dust is just beginning to settle from our most recent trip to Washington, D.C., Feb 4-8, 2013, where we spent five days visiting lawmakers to talk about the Indian Child Welfare Act and how it infringes on the rights of children and parents across our nation. Five CAICW members, all of whom have been affected by the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), joined me to share their stories and to advocate for positive changes to this law.

Our group met up in Washington on February 4 eagerly prepared to attend the 20 or more appointments that I had arranged prior to our departures. During the week we also managed to squeeze in a number of drop-in visits. As expected, our message was met with a range of responses.

We want to thank all of the lawmakers and their staffs for taking time to listen to our message. We met with at least 55 offices—35 Representatives and 20 Senators. We had meetings with the staff of 9 of the 14 members of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and with staff of the two ranking leaders of the House Indian Affairs and the Senate Indian Affairs committees, as well as 3 of the 4 co-chairs of the adoption caucus. For those of you interested, a complete list of offices we visited and their general reaction to our positions can be provided in a chart by request.

What We Shared

In connection to the necessary changes to the ICWA, we talked about several serious matters that impact families and children in Indian Country. We brought attention to the recent BIA takeover of children’s services on the Spirit Lake Reservation after the murder of 2 children exposed serious deficiencies in the tribal child welfare system and rampant child abuse. We pointed out that these problems are not isolated to this reservation, and that like Spirit Lake, many tribal governments and agencies are totally unequipped to handle these problems. We also brought attention to the Native Mob gang and the current trial taking place, as well as other organized gangs that are active on reservations in five states. Gang activity has rapidly increased over the past decade and it has a direct impact on all tribal members, but mostly on the young people who seek out gangs as a replacement for the families they do not have. Gangs are now well organized crime operations that are responsible for much of the violence, drug trafficking and use, gun running, and sexual recruitment of children and women.

We also discussed the serious implications of the Violence Against Women Act. While many only understand the impact of the ICWA on adoption cases in this country, more and more people are beginning to understand that the ICWA also contributes to much larger and much more serious problems affecting Indian Country.

Trapping more and more children and families in the dangerous confines of reservation life is doing nothing to serve the best interest or welfare of the children, their families or to preserve traditional culture. It is vital that we all come together and talk as a community.

As in the past, we started our presentations by sharing stories of families that have been hurt by the ICWA. We pointed out that even parents of 100% tribal heritage have the right to determine where their children should be placed as long as the home is safe—and heritage is simply a data point, not a definition of who you are. An increasing number of individuals and families of tribal heritage are voicing reluctance to live within reservation boundaries. Many are opposed to overreaching laws, which interfere with private family affairs, such as the ICWA and other laws being written into new tribal constitutions. The ICWA and the Native Nation Building Movement, which encourage and promote individual tribal constitutions over the U.S. constitution, interfere with basic U.S. Constitutional rights of U.S. citizens who also happen to have tribal heritage.

We stressed to lawmakers that the ICWA works more to promote the tribe then the best interests of children. We urged everyone we visited with to take up these discussions and to work to seek positive reforms to protect and strengthen families across the nation.

Sierra Shares Lessons on Indian Adoption

The Campbell family, Carol, Gene and Sierra bravely shared their heartbreaking and dramatic story. Sierra and her adopted parents openly spoke about how Sierra was abused and used sexually as a child. Sierra recounted how she was first given to a man at the age of ten and how her younger sister was used in the same manner. Sierra explained how she attempted to run away over a dozen times and begged to be returned to the only family she ever felt safe with and knew she was loved—the Campbells. She told how while in a tribal foster home she was ultimately cut down from a rope she used in attempt to hang herself.

Jon Tevlin of the Star Tribune recounts Sierra’s dramatic story and covers her family’s recent trip to Washington to advocate for changes to the ICWA in an article that can be read at: http://www.startribune.com/local/190953261.html?refer=y

Steps You Can Take to Bring Positive Change to Indian Country

Contact your representatives in the Congress and Senate and encourage them to take action in regards to amending the ICWA and bringing serious changes to Federal Indian Policy. It is especially important to contact lawmakers who serve on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

  • URGENT: Contact your senators and ask them to contact Paul Wolf in Senator Cantwell’s office to request that the ICWA be placed on Senator Cantwell’s agenda for this session. The agenda is being prepared and set NOW. If the ICWA is not put on her agenda for this session it will not come up for discussion this year nor probably next.
  • Urge your senator to contact Paul Wolf in Senator Cantwell’s office to press for hearings on the Spirit Lake Reservation and other reservations where child abuse and child sexual abuse is rampant.
  • Inform your neighbors, friends and families of the importance of bringing POSITIVE CHANGE to Indian Country. Many U.S. citizens have no idea how the ICWA, the Violence Against Women Act and issues of tribal sovereignty impact all of us as U.S. citizens.
  • Continue to pray for everyone negatively affected, intentionally or non-intentionally by the ICWA, Violence Against Women Act and Federal Tribal Policy. Especially pray for the children who have no voice or representation in their own well being. And please pray for us as we work to bring these issues forward.

 

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

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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.

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ICWA is the REAL War on Women

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Dec 192012
 

As demonstrated by the “Save Veronica” case, this REAL War on Women comes in the form of the Cherokee Nation’s affirmation that single mothers of all heritages must fear tribal interference if they give a child up for adoption without knowing for certain whether the birth father has even a single drop of Cherokee blood.

During the Thursday, October 18, 2012 segment of the Dr. Phil show, Cherokee Nation attorney Chrissi Nimmo refused to admit Veronica had only a drop of Cherokee blood, but she also didn’t deny it. She did not answer this question because she is well aware of the implications…she knows people will be stunned at the realization. Instead, Ms. Nimmo tried to make the argument that the issue is not about blood quantum or how a child looks, but that they have a right to be part of the Cherokee tribe. The real issue is the fact that with the help of the ICWAthis “right” is being forced on not only this child, but also many children and families all across the U.S.

This argument, and the law, ignores many basic Constitutional rights. Not all enrollable individuals WANT their children to be forced into political affiliation with tribal government, and not all enrollable or enrolled parents want their children to be raised on or near a reservation. In fact, manyenrolled fami-
lies have purposefully made a choice to raise their children outside the reservation. Is it the tribe’s right, or the individual parent’s right to choose where to live and raise their children?

The following example illustrates how the ICWA is negatively affecting the
decisions and rights of enrolled tribal members. At a home for unwed mothers in Bismarck, South Dakota, several enrolled women told State Representative Lee Kaldor that even though they wanted to give their babies up for adoption, they were afraid that tribal government would interfere. Although they honestly didn’t feel they were able to properly raise and nurture their babies, they decided against adoption because they wouldn’t have the right to make decisions on behalf of their unborn babies. With adoption not an option, some of them contemplated abortion.

Interestingly enough, tribal governments don’t interfere in a mother’s decision to have an abortion, but they are increasingly interfering in the rights of a mother tochoose adoption, and placement of their children.

Ms. Nimmo’s argument also ignores the rights of the Latino birth mother in question, and ANYmother of any race who chooses adoption for their child. While it’s bad enough that enrolled Indian mothers don’t feel a freedom of choice in deciding what is best for their children, the Veronica case illustrates how a Hispanic mother, who was carrying a child with only a tiny percentage of
tribal heritage, had her rights and wishes superseded by a tribal government.

What a nightmare for any pregnant single mother contemplating adoption—a minute amount of known, or potentially unknown, Indian heritage gives a tribal government the legal right to interfere.

A further example of how the ICWA is negatively affecting women’s rights is the increasing trend of tribal governments moving to exercise their right to adjudicate in custody hearings.  Because of the ICWA, a tribe has the right to have representation at all custody hearings involving offspring of children of enrolled members, even if the child is not enrolled, or only has a small
percentage of Native blood. In many cases, the custody hearings are required to be held in tribal court, even at some distance from where the child is currently residing. The non-Indian parent is stripped of their rights to an unbiased hearing because they are not permitted access to council of
their choice. In at least one case, a non-Indian mother was threatened with bodily harm by the tribal judge and police, and by order of the judge, her young daughter taken from her and placed with an abusive father.

Congress passed the ICWA in 1978 in response to the alarmingly high number of Indian children being removed from their homes by both public and private agencies. The intent of Congress under the ICWA was to “protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families” (25 U.S.C. § 1902). ICWA sets federal requirements that apply to state child custody proceedings involving an Indian child who is a
member of, or eligible for membership in, a federally recognized tribe.
The real question now is whether the ICWA is really working to “protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families,” or whether the law is being abused to protect ONLY the best interest of tribes, and in doing so is denying both children and adults equal protection and representation as provided under the U.S. Constitution.

Year-End Review: Jan. 6, 2013, CAICW Sponsors “Save Veronica” Campaign

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Dec 142012
 

It all began at the start of the year, when adorable 2-year-old Veronica was removed from her adoptive parents’ home as a result of the ICWA, and transferred to her birth father. From that day on, there has been no rest for the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare (CAICW).

Many citizens of the South Carolina town where Veronica was raised witnessed the emotionally inhumane transfer of custody, and a campaign began immediately to“SAVE VERONICA ROSE.”Veronica’s story soon brought national attention to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

CAICW has never seen this kind of reaction before. THOUSANDS of supporters joined Veronica’s Facebook page, and as of this writing, more than 20,000 have signed a petition to Congress to change the ICWA.

A Recap of Veronica’s Story
While pregnant, Veronica’s Latina birth mother had selected Matt and Melanie to become Veronica’s adoptive parents—to love, nurture and raise her child. Although Veronica’s birth father knew the approximate period of time in which Veronica was to be born, he made no contact with her mother during the pregnancy. And because the birth mother didn’t want to marry, the father told her he wasn’t going to support the child. In South Carolina, where the mother resides, the law states that unless a father is physically and financially involved during a pregnancy, and in a timely manner following birth, he is considered to be an absentee father and therefore does not have standing in court. This law is in place to allow a mother time and opportunity to make necessary decisions in the face of abandonment.

In early January 2010, when Veronica was about four months old, her birth father signed papers agreeing to relinquish parental rights to his daughter. Shortly afterward he changed his mind. The Oklahoma state court dismissed his late attempt at intervention, but because of his 3 percent Cherokee heritage, the Cherokee Nation intervened in the adoption proceedings and argued that this happy, healthy two-year-old be transferred to her birth father. As a result of the
ICWA, a family court judge ruled in his favor.

Up until this time, Veronica was a thriving child residing in a stable, nurturing environment. To this day,Veronica’s birth mother remains committed to her original decision. On December 31, 2011, with less than two hours of “transition” time, Veronica was handed over to her biological father. She was placed in a car with literal strangers and taken miles from the only home she had known since birth.

On January 6, 2012, in order to allow Veronica’s supporters to be protected
under a legal entity and receive a tax deduction for donating to the family’s legal defense fund, “Save Veronica” officially became an advocacy and awareness campaign of CAICW.

Veronica’s parents appealed the custody decision, but this past July the South Carolina Supreme Court upheld the ICWAlaw, ruling that Veronica remain with her birth father. On Monday, October 1, 2012, the legal team for the parents filed a petition for review with the United States Supreme Court for their case involving the ICWA. We will know in January if the court will accept the case.

On Thursday, October 18, 2012 Veronica’s story aired on the Dr. Phil show. Representatives of the Cherokee Nation as well as Veronica’s birth parents were interviewed. Much of the discussion centered around whether the ICWA was actually working to protect the rights and well being of children as it was originally intended to do, or whether the law was creating a situation where the
rights of tribes supersede the rights and welfare of the children. The show has ignited a firestorm of responses, which CAICW regards as clear indication of the need to further educate the public about ICWA and the unintended damage it is causing to families and children across the country.

CAICW continues to advocate for the return of Veronica to her adoptive parents, and we encourage all of our supporters to contact your congressional representatives and impress on them the need to change the outdated ICWA law.