27 July 2013

ICWA Part V Children are Gifts

A bit of the history behind the need for the law can be found at American Bar dot org.  An excerpt of B.J. Jones  "The Indian Child Welfare Act  The need for a separate law :"
***Ensuring a Future
A look at history reveals why Congress determined a special law was needed to protect the rights of Indian children and their parents. Before 1978, as many as 25 to 35 percent of the Indian children in certain states were removed.... Non-Indian judges and social workers--failing to appreciate traditional Indian child-rearing practices--perceived day-to-day life in the children's Indian homes as contrary to the children's best interests.

We knew social workers by their walk, their attitude and hated to see them make home visits.  Inspections: white glove type with their  nose in the air.  They acted like they were going to be contaminated just being in the house, breathing the same air.  Did they ever once offer to help?  Really help, like get us a reliable babysitter, pitch in and help clean, offer to watch the kids so we could get a break?  Ahh, we were expected to be Mrs. Cleaver and/or Mr. Cleaver.

In Minnesota, for example, an average of one of every four Indian children younger than age one was removed.... A number of these children were taken from their homes simply because a paternalistic state system failed to recognize traditional Indian culture and expected Indian families to conform to non-Indian ways.

I liked going to my Auntie's house cause we could sit and talk or get our shawls and outfits ready and they'd take us to the powwow.  At our house, kids came to watch TV or just hang out.  At all times, we knew the rules, the consequences.  We even watched over each other.  We learned to work through our problems.  And we learned who could be trusted and who to stay away from.  Surprise, surprise, it was our family we counted on.

I think of all the times I've been accosted by a member of "dominant society" and yelled at because I didn't do things "right," I was doing something different.  I'm stunned by their discourtesy when they walk away thinking they've done their duty.  If I'm not breaking the law, then don't say anything unless you can be courteous about it.

Other children were removed because of the overwhelming poverty their families were facing....it was used by some state entities as evidence of neglect and, therefore, grounds for taking children from their homes.

My mom used to get us a lot of rummage sale clothes.  I got a lot of rummage sale clothes.  Reason: so kids could play in them without worrying about getting them dirty or stained or ripped.  When the clothes got too old, they became cleaning rags or used in blankets or rugs.  We got new clothes, we knew these were to be taken care of.  Did anyone outside of our tribe offer to help get clothes?

It was not only the high number of children being removed from their homes, but also the fact that 85 to 90 percent of them were being placed with non-Indians that caught the attention of Congress. Congress was actively promoting the continued viability of Indian nations as separate sovereigns and cultures at that time. By enacting the substantive placement preferences in ICWA--which require that Indian children, once removed, be placed in homes that reflect their unique traditional values (25 U.S.C. 1915)--Congress was acknowledging that no nation or culture can flourish if its youngest members are removed. The act was intended by Congress to protect the integrity of Indian tribes and ensure their future
***Bolding and underlining are my additions.

Has very much changed since the seventies?  Not much that I can see as far as the standards we're judged by.  Though it is nice that the kids are in homes where we actually know the people keeping them.  We're more involved as families when a child ends up in the system.  We hear the final decision is made by a tribal court judge.  People are still learning to manipulate the system; it's easier to catch if at least one of the social workers is traditional.  Everyone on the rez knows the "church" standards.  It helps when more and more traditionals talk about our traditions, our culture.  There is still a lot more that needs to be done.  The ICWA is not perfect, no system is.  We just have to keep on keeping on and the ICWA will work for us.

Please read "The Indian Child Welfare Act  The need for a separate law :" in its entirety.

Our children are gifts.  Gifts to be taken care of, loved, protected.  Parents are gifts.  Gifts to be taken care of, loved, protected.  Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Friends: all are gifts. Gifts to be taken care of, loved, protected.

What are our tribes?

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