So. Carolina High Court Rules in favor of Cherokee Nation in Baby Veronica Case

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Jul 262012
 

Veronica RoseCharleston, SC [7/26/12]

by Jessica Munday, Trio Solutions:

The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled today that the 2-year-old adoptive daughter of Matt and Melanie Capobianco will remain with her biological father Dusten Brown. After seven months of living without her, the Capobiancos of Charleston, SC received word that South Carolina’s high court ruled in favor of the Indian Child Welfare Act, the federal law that allowed Brown and the Cherokee Nation to retain custody of the child on New Year’s Eve 2011.

Despite public outcry that the child should be returned to her adoptive parents, the federal law granted the Cherokee Nation, of which Brown is a registered member, the ability to argue that the child is best served with her father’s tribe.

The law was originally intended to preserve Native American culture by keeping Indian children with native families as opposed to non-Native American families. Even though Brown would not be considered a parent by state law because of his lack of support to the birth mother during and after the pregnancy, Christina Maldonado of Oklahoma, the federal law trumps her wishes to select a non-Native family to raise her child.

Brown filed for paternity and custody four months after the child was born in September 2009. He filed for custody with Oklahoma family court. The case was dismissed and jurisdiction was granted to South Carolina. Brown eventually utilized the Indian Child Welfare Act to remove Veronica from her adoptive family on New Year’s Eve. The Capobiancos immediately appealed to the South Carolina Supreme Court.

After learning about the Capobianco’s case, the author of the law, former U.S. Senator Jim Aborzek of South Dakota, was quoted in Charleston’s daily newspaper The Post and Courier as saying this situation is “something totally different than what we intended at the time.” Additionally, he said, “That’s a tragedy. They obviously were attached to the child and, I would assume the child was attached to them.”

The adoption case caught national attention on New Year’s Eve when the Capobiancos were forced to hand over the toddler to Brown. The way the family court handled Veronica’s transfer sparked outrage from child advocacy and mental health communities around the country. Prior to the transfer, the 2-year-old had never met Brown. He refused offers for a transition period, placed the toddler in a pick-up truck and drove more than 1,100 miles from the only family the child had ever known.

Oral arguments were heard on April 17. The court hearing was closed to the public. All parties involved in the case remain under a gag order until clearance from their legal team.

Contact: Jessica Munday

jessica@trio-solutions.com

843-708-8746

New Book: Dying in Indian Country – An Amazing Family Story

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Jul 022012
 

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Dying In Indian Country - by Beth Ward

This is the true story of an American tribal member who, after coming to know Jesus Christ, realized just how much policies within tribal and federal government were hurting his extended family.

Roland grew up watching members of his family die of alcoholism, child abuse, suicide, and violence on the reservation. Like many others, he blamed all the problems on “white people.”

Beth Ward grew up in a middle class home in the suburbs. Raised in a politically left family, she also believed that all problems on the reservation originated with cruel treatment by settlers and the stealing of land. Meeting her husband, her first close experience with a tribal member, she stepped out of the comfort of suburban life into a whole new, frightening world.

After almost ten years of living with his alcoholism and the terrible dangers that came with it, they both came to realize that individual behavior and personal decisions were at the root of a man’s troubles, including their own. After coming face-to face with the reality of Jesus Christ, their eyes opened to the truth of why there is so much Dying in Indian Country.

What cannot be denied is that a large number of Native Americans are dying from alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide, and violence. The reservation, a socialistic experiment at best, pushes people to depend on tribal and federal government rather than God, and to blame all of life’s ills on others. The results have been disastrous.

Roland realized that corrupt tribal government, dishonest federal Indian policy, and the controlling reservation system had more to do with the current pain and despair in his family and community than what had happened 150 years ago.

Here is the plain truth in the eyes of one family, in the hope that at least some of the dying in Indian Country — physical, emotional, and spiritual — may be recognized and prevented.

Unfortunately, persistent public misconceptions about Indian Country, misconceptions sometimes promoted by tribal government and others enjoying unaudited money and power, have worked to keep the situation just as it is.

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  • “Roland truly has encouraged many people…the last trip to D.C. was a testimony to God’s faithfulness.Rev. Robert Guthrie, B.Th. M.A. –Professor, Vanguard College, AB
  • “…he earned my deepest respect, and…made heroic and very honorable attempts to improve the lot of Native Americans in this country.” Jon Metropoulos, Attorney, Helena, MT
  • “‘Dying in Indian Country’ is a compassionate and honest portrayal…I highly recommend it to you!” Reed Elley, former Member of Parliament, Canada; Chief Critic for Indian Affairs in 2000; Baptist Pastor, father of four native and metis children
  • “I truly admire Roland for the message he was trying to have heard.” Ralph Heinert, Montana State Representative
  • “He was a magnificent warrior who put himself on the line for the good of all…. I can think of no-one at this time in this dark period of Indian history who is able to speak as Roland has.” Arlene, tribal member
  • “…hope emerging from despair… This is a story about an amazing life journey.” Darrel Smith. Writer, Rancher, South Dakota
  • “He’s a Christian now you know… I saw him crying on his knees on my living room floor. I was there.” Sharon, tribal member
  • “…truly gripping, with a good pace.” Dr. William B. Allen, – Emeritus Professor, Political Science, MSU and former Chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (1989)

Read More:

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Save Veronica Rose!

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Jan 122012
 

A terrible injustice that has occurred to a two-year-old South Carolina child named Veronica Rose and her adoptive parents. Two years ago Veronica’s Latina birth mother chose Matt and Melanie to love, nurture and raise her child. To this day, Veronica’s birth mother remains committed to her decision and Veronica has been a thriving, happy child residing in a stable, nurturing environment. On or around Jan. 4, 2010, the birth father signed papers agreeing to give up his daughter.

However, because Veronica has some Cherokee heritage from her birth father’s side of the family, the Cherokee Nation intervened in the adoption proceedings and argued that this happy, healthy two-year-old be transferred to her birth father. Because of a federal law known as the Indian Child Welfare Act, a family court judge ruled that she be immediately transferred to her biological father.


Psychologist who witnessed Veronica’s transfer comments on the detrimental effects –
Click Baby Veronica to hear an audio of the interview

The ruling placed the rights of the birth father and tribe above the best interests of this small child. Child-bonding experts agree that removing her from her home and family would be devastating and have long-lasting consequences. Numerous child psychologists stated this would be detrimental to any child. Yet on Dec. 31, Veronica was handed over to her biological father as if a possession without rights.

We believe that children need protection and should not be removed from loving, nurturing environments. We understand the premise of this law is to protect children; however, in Veronica’s case it has been used inappropriately.

Former U.S. senator Jim Abourezk (SD) authored ICWA. According to the Charleston Post and Courier, after reviewing Veronica’s story, Abourezk called the interpretation in this case “something totally different than what we intended at the time.”

“That’s a tragedy,” he said. “They obviously were attached to the child and, I would assume, the child was attached to them.”

According to the 2000 census, approximately 75% of people claiming to have American Indian or Alaska Native ancestry live outside the reservation. Further, interracial marriages are a fact of life. It is must be recognized that most children of heritage live off the reservation and have extended family that are non-tribal. Though supporters of the Indian Child Welfare Act say it has safeguards to prevent misuse, Veronica and numerous other multi-racial children across the U.S have been hurt by it. Children who have never been near a reservation nor involved in tribal customs are affected. The Cherokee Nation alone is currently tied up in about 1,100 active Indian Child Welfare cases involving some 1,500 children.

Tragically, under the Indian Child Welfare Act:

1) Some children have been removed from safe, loving homes and placed in danger
2) Equal opportunities for adoption, safety and stability are not always available to children of all heritages
3) The Constitutional right of parents to make life choices for their children, for children of Indian heritage to associate freely, and for children of Indian heritage to enjoy Equal Protection has in some cases been infringed upon.

We want more than anything for Veronica to be allowed to come home. As our elected representatives, we urge you to protect Veronica’s rights in all possible ways as well as make legislative changes that will prevent this from happening to any other child again. While we understand you are unable to interfere in court proceedings, we ask you to speak out on this issue and let your constituents know clearly where you stand. We also ask you to sponsor legislation and encourage fellow Congressmen to support the amending of the Indian Child Welfare Act to:

1. Guarantee protection for children of Native American heritage equal to that of any other child in the United States.
2. 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.
3. 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.)
4. 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 will 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…”
• 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. Include well defined protections for Adoptive Parents.
6. 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.
7. Mandate that only parents and/or legal custodians have the right to enroll a child into an Indian Tribe. Because it is claimed that tribal membership is a political rather than racial designation, we are asking that parents, as U.S. citizens, be given the sole, constitutional right to choose political affiliation for their families and not have it forced upon them.
• 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”

Save Veronica Supporters Worldwide
www.saveveronica.org
www.facebook.com/saveveronicarose
www.twitter.com/save_veronica

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Nov 222011
 

Washington DC Teach-In:

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

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

Dr. William B. Allen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Won!!

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Sep 292011
 

It’s been a long and difficult two years, but God is good and faithful.  Thank you for your prayers and support. Also thank you for telling us about [the attorney]. We will forever be indebted.

Where do I start? As you probably remember our story started with a baby girl born out of wedlock to an Indian father and Caucasian mother. The mother chose us to adopt (non-native) and the father agreed at the time. Now to bring you up to speed since our last letter Nov ’09. We waited until the bio-father was out of jail in hopes to meet with him and his family about the adoption. It was our understanding that the only reason the tribe intervened in November ’09 was because they believed the paternal family wanted to adopt her and that the father changed his mind. We felt that waiting was our only option because our attorney at the time was not supportive of us. He felt that we would never win regardless of what we did. We wanted our attorney at the time to co-counsel with [the attorney], but our attorney was very negative, made it sound like it was going to cost us thousands and it would all be a waste of time anyways. We didn’t believe that so like I said we waited. Eight months later we met with the father and family. They all agreed to the adoption. After that conversation we believed we would be able to adopt without the tribe interfering (they had originally released us to adopt).  So we hired a new attorney to handle the adoption. We were talking with the father and hoping to finalize in Feb 2011. In Dec ’09 we had asked the father to come for a Christmas visit. He accepted. But the day arrived and he didn’t show up, no call or anything. The next thing we know our attorney receives a letter from the tribe that stated that the father came into the tribal attorney’s office refusing to agree to the adoption and the tribe was intervening. Unfortunately, our case was one of our attorney’s last cases because he was retiring. So needless to say we had to find a new attorney to take our now contested case. We were blessed to find ————. She was willing to co-counsel with [the attorney] and they made an awesome team. Both of them fight for the child’s rights with honesty and dignity. They made our case bullet proof and we won… The tribe still has 42 days to appeal the decision, but —– talked to the tribal attorney and he said that he is recommending that the tribe DOES NOT intervene. Like I said our attorneys made our case bullet proof so it would be unlikely for the tribe to win even in the Supreme Court. We will wait out the 42 days and finalize the adoption after [in] October…

[We] are still in a state of shock or disbelief. Maybe it will hit us when we sign the final papers.

Again, thank you for all of your support and prayers. We truly believe that we would not be holding our precious forever daughter without your guidance to the right attorney, your encouragement and your website to educate us. We have directed others to your website and have been able to educate others because of it. We were surprised how many people including Natives that are not aware of ICWA.

As I have promised in the past I will do what I can to help support you and the people you help as soon as this is over.

Many blessings,

CONGRATULATIONS for Successful Adoptions!

 Comments Off on CONGRATULATIONS for Successful Adoptions!
Sep 292011
 

TO FIVE WONDERFUL FAMILIES –

Who in the last two months have either successfully completed their adoptions or will be completing them shortly –

To the three awesome families in Texas, one in California, and the beautiful family in Idaho – CONGRATULATIONS!

Please also give a very special thanks to a wonderful attorney who ministered for most of these children in very wise and beneficial ways – as well as Johnston Moore and Andy Reum, two board members who were willing and available to speak to and encourage a couple of the families.

AND a VERY SPECIAL THANKS – To all those who have been praying faithfully for these families as well as the many others who contact us!! God Bless all you awesome prayer warriors!

Indian Children: Citizens, not Cultural Artifacts

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Sep 292011
 

Washington DC, Friday, October 28, 2011

Indian Children: Citizens, not Cultural Artifacts: Supporting the Best Interest of Children –

CAICW will be holdging an ICWA “Teach-In” Friday, October 28, 2011, 9am – 1pm, Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Hearing Room, Wash, DC.
The Indian Child Welfare Act was passed in 1978 in effort to help prevent Native-American tribes and families from losing children to non-Native homes through foster care and adoption. Though well-intentioned, the Act is now harming children all across the country as courts and tribes place culture and tribal sovereignty above children’s basic needs for permanency and stability.

Come hear real stories of children whose lives have been impacted by the Indian Child Welfare Act. Listen to legal experts and scholars discuss the constitutionality of an Act that limits placement options and delays permanency for many of our nation’s most vulnerable children.

The sessions will include:

Initial Overview – The Mandate of Congress
a. Enforce the 14th Amendment
b. First, Do no Harm
c. Remedy Past Injustices

Session 1. ICWA is unconstitutional –
a. Dr. William B. Allen, Emeritus Professor, Political Science, MSU, will discuss Cohen v. Little Six; Granite Valley v. Jackpot Junction, Kiowa v. United Technologies, Choctaw v. Holyfield, and more.

Session 2. Congressional Intent –
a. Attorney O. Yale Lewis will discuss the legislative history of the ICWA and the changing history of the federal / Indian relationship.

Session 3. Political Status Claims threaten Citizenship –
a. Panel of affected families will share their family experience
b. Case studies on coerced enrollment will be presented.

Session 4. Cultural Heritage is a Data Point in Adoption Cases, not a Trump –
a. Who Decides when a citizen is an Indian; can race be politically attributed?
b. Restoring best interests of child as a consideration in adoptions.

Keynote: Dr. William Allen – Why We Must Act Now

JOIN US in support of the ‘Best Interest’ of Children — and THANK YOU!!
CONTACT LISA at WRITEUS@CAICW.ORG

WE NEED HELP!

 Comments Off on WE NEED HELP!
Jun 072011
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Encouraging letter from Adoptive Mom:

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Dec 262010
 

Stock Photo - Kids successfully adopted, now siblings

Stock Photo - Kids successfully adopted, now siblings

All identifying information has been  removed

Date: Fri, 17 Dec 2010 12:56:10 -0500 (EST)

To: administrator@caicw.org

Dearest Lisa,

I wanted to drop you a note the let you know we won our court case against the tribe …. We went to court in Aug. 2009 and in Sept. the judge ruled that the kids should stay with us. But, of course the tribe appealed his decision the day before the deadline… The State Court of Appeals heard the case… this year and ..they affirmed the judges decision. … It cost us $10,000.00 and a lot of worry but we are finally proceeding with the adoption. Our family would like to thank you so very much for your organization and all the help it provides families like ours, without the information on your web site I don’t know if our lawyer could have made such a good case using other state case law. You provide an invaluable service to children hurt by ICWA and God will lead you to do even better things. I received your newsletter yesterday and vow to get as many signatures as I can to sent back to you. I wish I could do more but I will pray for you everyday. If you want to know more or if there is anything I can do from here… please contact me. Our family is forever in your debt. Again, thank you for all you do, and have a Happy Holiday, WE WILL.
Sincerely,
– a very happy MOM

Jul 012010
 

Roland John Morris, Sr.
July 1, 1945 – June 9, 2004           

Roland Morris, Sr., 58, ascended to heaven on Wednesday, June 9th after a four year fight with cancer. Roland, a member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, was born July 1, 1945, in Cass Lake, MN. Ojibwe was his first language, and he grew up fishing, hunting, and gathering wild rice with family and friends. He also played intramural basketball, worked hard in the woods, spent time in a foster home and various jails, drank, smoked, and played guitar with friends at various bars.

Roland went to college in Kansas and was a draftsman for a short time before becoming an upholsterer. While he struggled with many difficulties in his early years, he was a perfectionist with upholstery and throughout his life performed his craft well.

After a life changing spiritual experience with Jesus in 1988, Roland moved his second family to Ronan, Montana to be near his cousin and Christian evangelist, Frank (Scotty) Butterfly. There, in 1992, Roland and his wife, Elizabeth, created Montana’s first patient transportation service, Mission Valley Medicab. They also helped instigate the Montana Passenger Carriers Association and the charitable organization, Valley Missions, Inc., all without tribal assistance.

Roland taught his children about wild ricing, hunting, fishing, and a little of the Ojibwe language. But the biggest, strongest desire of his heart was that his children, grandchildren, and entire extended family come to the saving knowledge and acceptance of Jesus Christ. Having watched many friends and relatives die physically, spiritually, and emotionally from alcoholism, violence, and suicide, Roland could no longer stand aside and do nothing. He was concerned for the children and felt distress at the attitudes of many adults within his community. He wanted the self-destruction to stop.

Roland’s relationship with Jesus coupled with his conviction that much of the reservation system was harmful led him to some amazing life experiences. Actively opposing much of federal Indian policy, Roland served as President of the Western Montana organization All Citizens Equal, was a board member and Vice-Chairman of the national organization; Citizens Equal Rights Alliance, was the Secretary of Citizens Equal Rights Foundation.

He also ran as a Republican candidate for the Montana House of Representatives in the 1996 and testified before the US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in April,1998, the Minnesota Attorney General in 2000, and numerous Mont. State committees. With his family, he also had a private meeting with a member of the President’s Domestic Policy Council May, 2002 in Washington DC.

As time progressed, Roland became more convinced of the importance of Jesus in his life. So in 2000 he attended a year of training at the Living Faith Bible College, Canada. Over the last three years, he and/or his family went on mission trips in Canada and Mexico. During a 2003 trip to a children’s home in Juarez, Mexico, he fixed most of their dining hall chairs, taught 6 boys how to upholster, donated materials, and preached a Sunday street service.

Through the years, he has appeared in numerous newspaper articles across the country. The last article he appeared in was on Friday, May 14th, in the Washington Times. Reporter Jennifer Lehner wrote, “the ICWA [Indian Child Welfare Act] protects the interests of others over [Mr. Morris’] grandchildren,” and “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, he said, the tribal leadership uses the ICWA to acquire funds provided through the legislation.” Ms. Lehner quoted Mr. Morris as saying that the law is “supposed to help children, but instead it helps tribal governments.”

Finally, in February, 2004, he and his wife founded the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare. The purpose of this was to encourage preaching, teaching and fostering of the growth of the Christian Faith in all places, encourage accountability of governments to families with Indian heritage, and educate the public about Indian rights, laws, and issues.

Roland praised God to the very end. When his final struggle began, several of his friends and family were praying with him. When those present sang old-time hymns, he raised his hand in the air for as long as he could. When “I Surrender” was sung, he sang the echo. While Pastor Kingery sat next to Roland, holding his hand, Roland looked him straight in the eyes and pointed his other hand up to heaven. When he passed on to greater life, his good friend Marvin Bauer was softly playing Gospel songs for him on his accordion.

Roland is survived by his wife, nine children, twelve grandchildren and a great grandson. Also important to his heart was his “special” son, Jesus Garcia, in Juarez, Mexico. Surviving brothers include Harry Morris and Steven Jones; and sisters include Clara Smith, Bernice Hurd, Sharon Goose, and Christine Jones, as well as numerous nephews and nieces and his great cousin, Scotty Butterfly.

Roland was preceded in death by his parents, Jacob and Susan Jones; siblings Thomas and Wallace Morris, Robert, Martin, Caroline, Frances, Barbara and Alvina Jones, Loretta Smith, and grandson Brandon Kier.

Roland’s loving friend, Jim Ball, crafted a beautiful casket for him as a gift. Funeral services were at the CMA Church in Ronan, MT, on Sunday, June 13, 2004 and the CMA Church in Cass Lake, MN, Tuesday, June 15. Internment was at Prince of Peace Cemetery. He is strongly remembered for his strength, character, and love for the Lord Jesus.

Roland, our husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, cousin, and friend; We Love you and Miss you so very much. You are with God now.

Gi gi wah ba min me na wah

Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare
Independent Indian Press
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Case Law for Existing Indian Family Doctrine

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May 112010
 

.Holyfield – the first case in which the federal high court has construed ICWA,

Mississippi Choctaw Indian Band v. Holyfield, 490 US 30 (1989) Docket No. 87-980, Argued January 11, 1989, Decided April 3, 1989, CITATION: 490 U.S. 30, 109 S.Ct. 1597, 104 L.Ed.2d 29 (1989),

DISCUSSION: I A The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA), 92 Stat. 3069, 25 U.S.C. 1901-1963, was the product of rising concern in the mid-1970’s over the consequences to Indian children, Indian families, and Indian tribes of abusive child welfare practices that resulted in the separation of large numbers of Indian children from their families and tribes through adoption or foster care placement, usually in non-Indian homes.

Dissenting footnotes: STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST, C. J., and KENNEDY, J., joined.

[ Footnote 8 ] The explanation of this subsection in the House Report reads as follows: “Subsection (b) directs a State court, having jurisdiction over an Indian child custody proceeding to transfer such proceeding, absent good cause to the contrary, to the appropriate tribal court upon the petition of the parents or the Indian tribe. Either parent is given the right to veto such transfer. The subsection is intended to permit a State court to apply a modified doctrine of forum non conveniens, in appropriate cases, to insure [490 U.S. 30, 61] that the rights of the child as an Indian, the Indian parents or custodian, and the tribe are fully protected.” Id., at 21. In commenting on the provision, the Department of Justice suggested that the section should be clarified to make it perfectly clear that a state court need not surrender jurisdiction of a child custody proceeding if the Indian parent objected. The Department of Justice letter stated:

“Section 101(b) should be amended to prohibit clearly the transfer of a child
placement proceeding to a tribal court when any parent or child over the age of
12 objects to the transfer
.” Id., at 32.

Although the specific suggestion made by the Department of Justice was not in fact implemented, it is noteworthy that there is nothing in the legislative history to suggest that the recommended change was in any way inconsistent with any of the purposes of the statute.

[ Footnote 9 ] Chief Isaac elsewhere expressed a similar concern for the rights of parents with reference to another provision. See Hearing, supra n. 1, at 158 (statement on behalf of National Tribal Chairmen’s Association)

(“We believe the tribe should receive notice in all such cases but where the
child is neither a resident nor domiciliary of the reservation intervention
should require the consent of the natural parents or the blood relative in whose
custody the child has been left by the natural parents. It seems there is a
great potential in the provisions of section 101(c) for infringing parental
wishes and rights”).

But when an Indian child is deliberately abandoned by both parents to a person off the reservation, no purpose of the ICWA is served by closing the state courthouse door to them. The interests of the parents, the Indian child, and the tribe in preventing the unwarranted removal of Indian children from their families and from the reservation are protected by the Act’s substantive and procedural provisions. In addition, if both parents have intentionally invoked the jurisdiction of the state court in an action involving a non-Indian, no interest in tribal self-governance is implicated. See McClanahan v. Arizona State Tax Comm’n, 411 U.S. 164, 173 (1973); Williams v. [490 U.S. 30, 64] Lee, 358 U.S. 217, 219 -220 (1959); Felix v. Patrick, 145 U.S. 317, 332 (1892).


In Bridget R. –In re Bridget R. (1996) 41 Cal.App.4th 1483 (Bridget R.). January 19, 1996 , LLR No. 9601041.CA, Cite as: LLR 1996.CA.41 – The Pomo Twins

[33] As we explain, recognition of the existing Indian family doctrine is necessary in a case such as this in order to preserve ICWA’s constitutionality. We hold that under the Fifth, Tenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, ICWA does not and cannot apply to invalidate a voluntary termination of parental rights respecting an Indian child who is not domiciled on a reservation, unless the child’s biological parent, or parents, are not only of American Indian descent, but also maintain a significant social, cultural or political relationship with their tribe.

[145] *fn11 We note in passing that Congress in 1987 failed to approve amendments to ICWA which were described in materials considered by the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs as having the effect of precluding application of the existing Indian family doctrine. (See Hearings before the Senate Select Com. on Indian Affairs, United States Senate, 100th Cong., 1st Sess. on Oversight Hearings on the Indian Child Welfare Act, Nov. 10, 1987, Appendix B, pp. 167-171.)

In re Alexandria Y.
(1996) 45 Cal.App.4th 1483, –

which applied the “existing Indian family doctrine” to a proceeding to terminate parental rights and implement a pre-adoptive placement.

…., the Fourth District held that “recognition of the existing Indian family doctrine [was] necessary to avoid serious constitutional flaws in the ICWA” (In re Alexandria Y., supra, 25 Cal.App.4th at p. 1493), and held that the trial court had acted properly in refusing to apply the ICWA “because neither [the child] nor [the mother] had any significant social, cultural, or political relationship with Indian life; thus, there was no existing Indian family to preserve.” (Id. at p. 1485.)

The court observed that not only did neither the mother nor the child have any relationship with the tribe, but also that the father was Hispanic, and that the child was placed in a preadoptive home where Spanish was spoken. “Under these circumstances,” the court commented, “it would be anomalous to allow the ICWA to govern the termination proceedings. It was clearly not the intent of the Congress to do so.” (Id. at p. 1494.)


From Santos y,
In re SANTOS Y., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law, In re Santos Y. (2001) , Cal.App.4th [No. B144822. Second Dist., Div. Two. July 20, 2001.]

“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, “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).”

The court paid “particular attention to In re Bridget R., and quoted from Bridget R.’s due process and equal protection analysis at relative length.”

They also said, “We do not disagree with the proposition that preserving Native-American culture is a significant, if not compelling, governmental interest. We do not, however, see that interest being served by applying the ICWA to a multi-ethnic child who has had a minimal relationship with his assimilated parents, particularly when the tribal interests “can serve no purpose which is sufficiently compelling to overcome the child’s right to remain in the home where he . . . is loved and well cared for, with people to whom the child is daily becoming more attached by bonds of affection and among whom the child feels secure to learn and grow.” (In re Bridget R., supra, 41 Cal.App.4th at p. 1508.)”

Finally, Santos states, “Congress considered amending the ICWA to preclude application of the “existing Indian family doctrine” but did not do so.”

RE: Santos Footnotes, – Existing Family Doctrine:

¬FN 15. Accepting the doctrine: Alabama (S.A. v. E.J.P. (Ala.Civ.App. 1990) 571 So.2d 1187); Indiana (Matter of Adoption of T.R.M. (Ind. 1988) 525 N.E.2d 298); Kansas (Matter of Adoption of Baby Boy L. (Kan. 1982) 643 P.2d 168); Kentucky (Rye v. Weasel (Ky. 1996) 934 S.W. 2d 257); Missouri (In Interest of S.A.M. (Mo.App. 1986) 703 S.W.2d 603); New York (In re Adoption of Baby Girl S. (Sur. 1999) 690 N.Y.S. 2d 907); Oklahoma (Matter of Adoption of Baby Boy D. (Ok. 1985) 742 P.2d 1059); Tennessee (In re Morgan (Tenn.Ct.App. 1997) WL 716880); Washington (Matter of Adoption of Crews (Wash. 1992) 825 P.2d 305).

Rejecting the doctrine: Alaska (Matter of Adoption of T.N.F. (Alaska 1989) 781 P.2d 973); Idaho (Matter of Baby Boy Doe (Idaho 1993) 849 P.2d 925); Illinois (In re Adoption of S.S. (Ill. 1995) 657 N.E.2d 935); New Jersey (Matter of Adoption of a Child of Indian Heritage (N.J. 1988) 111 N.J. 155, 543 A.2d 925); South Dakota (Matter of Adoption of Baade (S.D. 1990) 462 N.W.2d 485); Utah (State, in Interest of D.A.C. (Utah App. 1997) 933 P.2d 993.)
United States Code Title 25 – Indians Chapter 21 – Indian Child Welfare

§ 1911. Indian tribe jurisdiction over Indian child custody proceedings(b) Transfer of proceedings; declination by tribal Court: 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, upon the petition of either parent or the Indian custodian or the Indian child’s tribe: Provided, That such transfer shall be subject to declination by the tribal court of such tribe.

(Ftn 1) “The 2000 Census indicated that as much at 66 percent of the American Indian and Alaska Native population live in urban areas,” the Senate Indian Affairs Committee wrote in a views and estimates letter on March 2 2007. http://www.indianz.com/News/2007/001803.asp
(ftn2) 14th Amendment, Section 1: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and therefore have all the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

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Two more families ask for help

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Jun 082009
 

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We recieved two more letters this last week asking for help.

One is from an aunt of an enrollable child. The other is a foster / pre-adoptive home. They both need lots of prayer and good legal advice.

I am still having trouble finding time to update our website with letters. I don’t think I’ve updated it in a year. But that doesn’t mean the letters have stopped coming. It just means I’m overwhelmed with the children in my home, and trying to provide for everyone.

The problems with ICWa continue to exist and are hurting children across the country.

I pray for time to update the many letters we’ve recieved.
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Reality of Taking in Kids With FAS

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Jun 052009
 

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To the Foster and Adoptive Parents who are loving and in love with babies exposed to alcohol:

Yes, all children need love and being loved does make a huge difference in the life of every human being.

However, if you have other children in your home, you need to think this through very carefully. Especially if the children are around the same age.

All the love you can give the child affected by alcohol and drugs will not necessarily erase all the damage done in utero. Yes, we can pray and God does heal. But God is also sovereign and has the right to decide to allow some afflictions to continue and exist.

I had been raising four affected children for the last 13 years, along with five of my birth children. The two oldest have become adults and are no longer in the home. The two that were babies when I recieved them are still in the home.

I do believe the oldest of the four was a terrible, terrible influence on several of my children. Looking back, remembering how he was giving the younger boys weed when they were only 10 and 11 years old while at the same time appearing to be so charming and cooperative – one can see now that he was a master at being two different people.

People without a conscience have the ability to be appear completely charming and innocent because they have no conscience or guilt.

I was talking to someone the other day and began remembering all the different things; not just drug and alcohol abuse, but sexual issues, lying, stealing, conning, attempting to break into someone’s home, trashing another home, and much more. We had been fighting his worst behavior for seven or more years, but kept giving him more chances – keeping him in the home and around other children – because he was so convincing about being sorry or even innocent. There were also many things I didn’t find out about until much later.

Now I am looking around and seeing the fruit of that 13 years of work. Not only have the two oldest returned to their birth families and are abusing drugs and alcohol, (the oldest to the worst degree, as if he had never been raised any other way) I am also expriencing deep issues with most of my birth children.

Remember that group called Al-anon? That group exists because of the universal emotional hardship of living with someone that is an alcoholic. Living with and loving a person that is dishonest, manipulative and has the ability to make you believe that everything wrong is your fault takes a huge emotional toll.

Do not fool yourself into thinking that your birth children will not be affected by living with someone that has fetal alcohol issues. Children with fetal alcohol struggle with understanding cause and effect. They tend to think of things in terms of immediate gratification, are very self-oriented, and they frequently lack what we call a conscience.

I am now left wondering if what one pastor had told me is true – that I sinned when I took in extra children and neglected my own.

I had one of the two boys that are still in my home taken to a facility two nights ago, and a doctor there is recommending and in-patient treatment for him. We are still waiting to see if Medicaid will pay for it. I might have to bring him home again tonight if we don’t get a response from Medicaid today. If Medicaid doesn’t okay the treatment, I’m not sure what my next step will be. I’ve got to begin thinking about my two birth children who are also still home and start making them a priority – for the first time.
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ICWA steals adoption option from Young Mother

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May 282009
 

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My teenager is pregnant. Freshly graduated from high school, she had planned to go on to college in the fall. There is no argument, from her or me, that she made plenty of foolish decisions over the winter. But here we are, and what do we do now.

We love children, and we love this child. We won’t allow it to be hurt in any way. Abortion isn’t even a consideration. It’s not gonna happen.

But neither is adoption an option. The Indian Child Welfare Act would kick in if we tried it. But it would be over my dead body, literally, that I sit back and allow the tribe to have anything to do with the care and custody of my grandchild.

Too many childen on the reservation, under the “care” of tribal governments, are being raised amid poverty, violence, and alcohol, drug & sexual abuse. Tribal leaders claim that this is the best interest of the child. Bull.

The only ones benefiting from this set up are the tribal leaders themselves – and the money and power they have aquired by having a certain number of tribal members under their thumbs.

Quit blaming rotten reservation life on what happened 150 years ago, 100 years ago, 50 years ago, or even 5 days ago to this or that tribe or tribal member. It has to do with adults making rotten choices, same as my daughter (and I) have done. Plain and simple, everyone needs to grow up and take responsiblity for their lousy lives. And quit subjecting innocent children to the garbage they’re being subjected to.

We are faced then with only one choice – my daughter keeps custody and lets go of many the plans she had for the future, or at the very least, greatly adjusts those plans.

I will do all that I can to help her get through some type of schooling and care for her child. If I have to take physical care of my grandchild, I will do it without going to court for legal custody. I’ve seen too many grandparents robbed of their grandchildren by the tribe to want to mess with it.

Another Win Against ICWA

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May 152009
 

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A child and his family won in court at 2 pm Friday May 8, 2009. The child won the right to be adopted by the family his birth parents had chosen. The tribe lost. Praise God.

The child’s grandmother by birth wrote, “Thanks to everyone for all the prayers and support during the past two years. It has been quite the battle and I know this is but one small victory over ICWA. Thanks again.”

This may seem like a small victory to this humble grandmother, but for the child, it is a huge victory. Again, Praise God.
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ICWA Continues to hurt Famlies

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Apr 132009
 

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We get at least three letters a month at http://www.CAICW.org from families that need help. The Indian Child Welfare Act is hurting them and their kids. But we don’t have much for staff at CAICW. It’s a volunteer org made up of busy parents. We care, we pray, we encourage, we tell our stories. We try to connect people that can help each other.

But the Tribes have the money and attorneys. Tribal government leaders want our children to bolster their memberships, bring them more money, and help them to keep their little kingdoms. They don’t really care about what’s good and right for our kids. All our kids are to them is warm bodies that bring federal dollars.

And what would the BIA be if all tribal members left the tribal system? The BIA doesn’t want to lose its purpose – and people that work for the BIA don’t want to lose their government jobs.

Lord Please help us. It’s a tribal industry and our kids are pawns in a game.
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ICWA Has hurt Children and Parents.

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Nov 212008
 
  1. Federal, State, and Tribal authorities have favored a child’s tribal heritage over that child’s Irish, Afro-American, Scottish, Latino, or Jewish heritage, or any other heritage the child has, no matter the percentages. Whether the child’s heritage is predominately Slavic or Mexican, the only question asked is whether the child is enrollable.
  2. Some Tribal governments have interfered in custody battles between parents, overturned county decisions in favor of the tribally enrolled parent and ignored child abuse, neglect and drug abuse in those decisions.
  3. Some Tribal governments have claimed jurisdiction over children that have little tribal heritage and are not enrollable according to their constitutions.
  4. Contrary to state laws pertaining to the best interest of the child, some Tribal governments have ignored the interaction and relationships children have had with caregivers; the child’s adjustment to home, school, and community; the length of time the child has lived in a stable home, and the permanence of the existing or proposed custodial home.
  5. Many county courts and social services have backed away when ICWA is involved because they do not understand ICWA or can not afford to fight back.
  6. Several State Governments have given “Full Faith and Credit” to tribal courts and will not review or overturn tribal court custody decisions.
  7. Read their letters

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May 032008
 

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Wake up America. Tribal Government’s should not be given jurisdiction over our children simply because they claim the right. I understand that tribal government jurisdiction over Indian children sounds like common sense. It seems like a no brainer when tribal governments approach the federal and state governments and say, “They are our children and we have a right to raise them.” Everyone just nods their head and says, “Sure, no problem!”

Heavens, everyone’s afraid they’ll be accused of racism if they take the time to really think the issue through.

Wake up. These aren’t the tribe’s children. The ones in my home, for example, happen to be MY children, and we have no intention of living within the reservation system. Other parents across the country feel the same. According to the last census, most enrolled tribal members live off the reservation. Many, just like our family, left because they don’t want their children raised amid the dangers and dysfunction on the reservation. As American citizens, we have the right to make that choice for our families. And as well-intended as some in government are, they haven’t the ability to know what is best for my family or for the many other families that have left to live a different life.

Further, MOST children falling under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and other tribal jurisdiction laws have relatively small amounts of Indian heritage. Did you read that right?

Tribal governments decide their own membership and most have decided ¼ blood quantum is all that’s necessary. The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma goes further and claims jurisdiction over any child with ancestry tracing back to the Dawes Rolls no matter how minute the blood quantum.

Now, the ICWA defines an Indian child as any “enrollable” child. Think it through.

Parents can’t avoid ICWA and other jurisdictional laws by not enrolling their children.

Therefore, many children with 1/4 or less heritage and no connection to Indian Country fall under ICWA. And that is actually most of the affected children.

It’s plain as day. Think of a pyramid. Children of 100% heritage are the least common. They are at the tip. The largest number of children are the ones with little heritage. They make up the base. But being of little heritage also means they are primarily non-tribal and have a large percentage of relatives that are also non-tribal.

Don’t misunderstand. I am not noting this because I think the non-tribal heritage is of primary significance. There is no blood quantum of any heritage is of primary importance over another. All of my children’s heritages are interesting and valuable. I hate the idea of referring to a percentage of a child’s heritage in the same way one refers to the pedigree of a dog. How demeaning. Or worse, it is abhorrent to focus a preference on one blood heritage in the same way 1940’s Germany scrutinized the heritages of millions. The only point of noting blood quantum is to note that children with less than 100% heritage have more than one history and more than one set of interesting and important relatives.

What I am pointing out is that ICWA and other jurisdictional laws affect millions of people – and most aren’t even aware of it.

Until something comes up.

January 2008, the Navajo Nation sent for a 6-year-old girl in Texas. The little girl had been living with her father most of her life. Now, the birth mother wanted custody. Normally, there is a hearing, an attorney looking out for the child’s interests, and a transition period if there is to be a change of custody. Normally, both parents get equal opportunity to state their case. But this wasn’t normal, and the Texas County police, thinking the Navajo court order was enough, helped the tribe pick the little girl up from her day care without a Texas Court order. The little girl and her father wept, and then she was gone. He has seen her only once since, at a hearing in Navajo Tribal Court. Again, they held on to each other and wept.

That was in late March. He hasn’t been able to see or speak to her since. He hasn’t been given an address or phone number to contact her and the guardian ad litem hasn’t been able to locate her. He has no money, and the attorney he hired has put him on notice. No funds, no help.

A man in Oklahoma has fought to keep his baby girl. The tribe took custody right after the child’s birth and refused to even tell him her name let alone see her. Two years ago, a tribal court judge told him that because he is white, he had no rights to his baby. At one point he won custody. However, the tribe has appealed it, and his lawyer told him he needs about $30,000 to fight the appeal. He doesn’t have the money.

As unbelievable as it seems, some parents have lost custody of their children because they couldn’t afford a lawyer.

A three year old girl in Oregon hasn’t seen her birth mom in over two years. The last time she saw her mom was when the tribal police took her out of her mother’s arms at a tribal court hearing that was only supposed to be about getting a DNA test. The mom tried to hang on to her, but the judge ordered the police to take the baby by force, so they put pressure on her arms until she let go. Since then, she tried to get her back but couldn’t to find a lawyer to help. In 2007, she wrote:

“… Last year was very hard for me, and the constant let down of not being able to see or speak to my baby has tore me apart. I have spoken to the … father and he informed [me] that it is final that I will never be able to see my little girl again as long he has anything to do with it. So I have taken it very hard. I did write the tribal court judges, and asked for another hearing at least for visitation, and my pleas were denied. …. There is probably not a day that goes by that I don’t cry for my baby. I feel like the life I once had no longer exists.”

She isn’t alone. A mother in Wisconsin is trying to keep her 4-year-old daughter off the reservation. She said she has spoke to dozens of lawyers and can’t find anyone to help her.
ICWA doesn’t apply to custody battles between parents. Nonetheless, many tribal courts claim jurisdiction over all children, even in custody battles. Non-tribal parents with limited knowledge or funds find themselves in situations they can’t do anything about, commonly facing discrimination in the tribal courts.

ICWA does apply in foster and adoptive cases, but the next two stories are examples of how the law can harm even these children. It is also an example of how the law reaches out to affect children with limited tribal heritage.

A Texas fireman and his wife offered to take custody of a baby whose mother was considering abortion. She agreed. Later, after the baby was in their home for several weeks and adoption procedures had begun, the father wrote,

“… it was discovered she [the birthmother] is 1/128th Cherokee. That makes my son 1/256 or .0039% Native American and 99.9961% not…. His mother…was very adamant about the Cherokee Nation NOT raising her child and the court records show this. In April of 2006, we were notified of the Cherokee Nation’s intent to take us to court and remove our son from our home… Since then, we have been in a constant state of panic…”

To this date, in May 2008, this family is still fighting to complete this adoption. They have spent thousands and thousands of dollars on the effort, but will continue to fight to the end because of their love for this little boy.

A couple in Arkansas had custody of two little girls for 5 years. Late one night in February, 2007, as the adoptive parents were getting their two girls ready for bed, police arrived at their door. The 10-year-old twins already were in pajamas, but brandishing a court order, the police took the frightened girls and drove them 60 miles to the home of the other relative. They weren’t able to even tell friends good-bye.

Background: In October, 2002, the birth mother, a distant cousin, had arranged for the couple to adopt the twins. However, after signing the papers, an elderly relative who had four of the twins’ siblings began custody action. Although everyone agrees the adoptive parents kept a loving and stable home, the elderly relative won custody with the Tribe’s support. But within months, all of the children were removed from that home due to neglect. However, the twins weren’t returned to their adoptive parents. All the children were instead places back with the birth mother.

Interestingly, neither the birth mother, the adoptive family, NOR the relative were Indian, so why was the tribe involved?

Because the twins’ natural father is an enrolled member. And although the court said that he had “undisputedly abandoned the children,” his status made him “relevant to this case.” This gave the tribe jurisdiction under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The tribe wanted the twins placed with the siblings, “irrespective of the fact that many other full and half-siblings are scattered among several other states.” And irrespective of the children’s other various heritages.

Again, why take children from the only safe, nuclear family they’d ever had, and place them in unstable homes?

Power. Citing a 1974 Congressional hearing statement, “there is no resource … more vital to the continued existence and integrity of Indian tribes than their children…,” an appeals court found that the “best interest” of the child wasn’t the only issue for a court to consider. Citing ICWA, the court found that “maintaining the integrity of the Nation, its culture, its children, and its progression through time not to become extinct” also had to be considered.

In other words – (stop and re-read what this appeals court actually said) this law is for the benefit of the tribal entity and tribal government. It is not designed for the benefit of individuals or families.

Be that as it may, neither the Tribe nor Arkansas explained how moving the girls from the potential adoptive parents and non-tribal home they loved to a foster situation in a non-tribal home they were strangers to would help preserve the tribe.

According to Mississippi v. Holyfield, ICWA’s original goal was to combat “abusive child welfare practices” that took children from tribal communities and placed them in unfamiliar environments with strangers. The trauma that Indian children suffered from, among other things, being forced to enroll in far-off boarding schools is undeniable. But today the reverse is happening. Children that have never been near a reservation are being removed from environments they love and forced to live with strangers chosen by tribes.

Tribal authorities argue they are most qualified to decide the best interest of enrollable children. Are they? Arguments aside as to how ICWA has safeguards to prevent misuse, stories affecting black, Hispanic, Norwegian-American and other families reflect this reality. Letters from birth parents, grandparents, pre-adoptive families, and tribal members themselves can be read at https://www.caicw.org/familystories.html

Three years ago, two boys of 50-50 heritage were taken from their paternal, Mexican grandparents in California and sent to their Ute grandmother in Utah. Their home in California was loving and safe. They were sent to Utah only because social workers decided that ICWA required it. In a matter of weeks, 3-year old Emilio Rodriguez and his brother, Jose, 4-years-old, were beaten so severely that they both suffered severe concussions and Jose ended up in a coma. Why were they beaten? It was reported in the Utah papers that their maternal grandmother didn’t like that they were speaking Spanish.

The boys and their sister are now back with their Mexican grandparents who recently won a million dollar lawsuit against the United States for removing the boys and placing them with the Utah grandmother. The Utah grandmother is in jail.

If there is any case that illustrates just how bad the ICWA is, this one would be it. Wake Up, America. Do away with this law that primarily benefits governments, not people.