24 July 2013

ICWA Part II

Adoption issues have a big impact for the tribal enrollment.  Once parents sign away parental rights, the child can no longer be enrolled.  One needs to have an enrolled birth parent in order to be enrolled.  Even years later, when the adoptee returns home to his tribe as an adult, he/she can no longer be enrolled.   This is why enrollment requirements of each tribe need to be checked.  Each tribe has their own standards.

A listing of some current info can be checked at the Tribal Court Clearinghouse.  They have more info about Tribal Court systems in the United States.  For those who'd like more information on legal aspects, this is a good place to start.  North Carolina is home to Eastern Band of Cherokee.  There are links to the federally recognized tribes with included estimates of tribal members, exact numbers may or may not be confidential. Note:  F E D E R A L L Y  R E C O G N I Z E D.  Some states have recognized tribes without federal recognition. 

And therein lies the key.  For tribes to stay on federally recognized status, they must have eligible members.  Those members must have direct descent from an enrolled member.  The enrollment starts with a list created back in the 1930's or thereabouts.  And those lists stated the amount of federally recognized blood the member had.  That is the critical issue for enrollment purposes.  Once a child drops below that amount, they aren't federally recognized, though they are culturally recognized.

Adoption disrupts the enrollment process if neither parent has enrolled the child.  Once parental rights have been signed away, that parent has given away all claims for that child.  It is permanent and cannot be taken back.  Therefore the child cannot be enrolled, once the parent signs that paper.  I mention this again as some people have adopted Indian children thinking they'll have control of any monies the child would be entitled to.  Not so.  If a child has been enrolled prior to adoption, the enrollment stands b u t most tribes have now set up trust funds which the child receives when they reach age of majority.  If the child hasn't been enrolled and the adoption goes through, the child will never be enrolled because the parent g a v e  a w a y ALL rights for the child.

I can understand the pressure an Indian woman can be under when she gives birth and there is a problem that involves social workers.  I, myself, was visited four times by one when one of my sons was born.  And, I believe that my ex-husband was under pressure also.  The argument was that it would take a lot of money, time and care to raise my son and so I should give my son up for adoption with the caveat that I could still have contact with him.  Huhmm.  And people wonder why I get so mad when such issues come up.

I don't even want to consider what my son might think of me if I had surrendered to the pressure to put him up for adoption when he was born.  Literally, born.  I remember the gasps from the nurses and the doctor paused.  I was barely into the recovery room when the social worker appeared.  Four times before the worker understood the word NO.  And the pressure didn't let up with that.

All during my son's childhood, I've been visited by Social workers who were investigating me for various things.  Thanks to my mom and uncle, I think the message finally got through that my son was MY son and he would STAY with me.  Both of my sons are now adult and they have good relationships with all our family and tribe.  They have formed good friendships with non tribal members.  This was accomplished with the help of my family-my parents, my siblings, my aunts, my uncles, my cousins, my friends.  Both my sons are in good health and they have a pretty good self image.  

So, now, when I hear a child has been adopted out, I think of my experience and wonder.... 

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