White People Adopting Native American
My husband and I are doing foster care for a Navajo Child. Her parents have relinquished all rights, and she wants us to adopt her. How hard is it going to be to Accomplish this?
A Refrence from the News
The below article regards a situation in Canada, but it may give insight on Native American adoption barricades to hurdle as well.

This article was posted originally in a thread at



In whose best interest?

Cross-cultural adoption is condemned by Canada's First Nation leaders, but whose interests are they looking out for?

Saturday, September 13, 2003 - Page A27

Twenty-four years ago, Carla Newman was adopted at birth by a white couple. Her birth mother was a Cree from the Nisichawayasihk reserve in northern Manitoba. The adoption turned out to be a success, and she feels blessed to have been raised by such warm and loving parents. "I was lucky," she says.

Today, there are tens of thousands of native kids whose parents aren't able to raise them. But "cross-cultural" adoptions, as they're called, are no longer allowed. Phil Fontaine, the national grand chief of the Assembly of First Nations, calls them "a form of genocide." Across the country, native bands are taking children away from white foster families in an effort to block adoptions and repatriate children to the bands, even if there is no family to adopt them there, and even if the kids don't want to go.

Ms. Newman got in touch with me after she read about Lisa, a 14-year-old part-native girl whose mother's band is insisting that she go back to live with them. Lisa is fighting to stay with her foster parents, the only family she's ever known. "If the reserve couldn't take care of these kids in the first place, how can they ever take care of them now?" she asks passionately.

Good question. And Ms. Newman's own journey back to her roots is a cautionary tale for anybody who thinks repatriation is the answer.

Carla's birth mother was an alcoholic. She was only 16 when Carla was born, and she already had another child. She gave up Carla willingly, and Carla always knew about her origins. She even met many of her relatives before her adoptive family moved away. Carla lives in Moncton now. She has a degree in business administration from the University of New Brunswick, and works with the government.

"I never thought of myself as being native," she says, a statement that would probably curdle the blood of Phil Fontaine. "Maybe I didn't have as much curiosity as some people because I knew my native family were only a phone call away."

In 1999, Carla got married, and she asked her native relatives to the wedding. (Her mother, who was still drinking, didn't come.) A dozen or more of them showed up, and urged her to come "home." Soon after that she flew to the reserve to attend the funeral of an aunt. "I was curious to get a glimpse of how my life could have been," she told me.

What she saw distressed her deeply. The sewage overflowed, the water was unsafe to drink, the lawns were mud. "The poverty sickened me," she recalls. "I listened to the cries of my young cousin looking at her mother in a casket." The girl's mother had died of alcohol poisoning, as had her father a few weeks before. "I wanted nothing more than to grab my young cousin out of that reserve and take her to the safety of my real home, to show her that that was not what life was about."

A major argument against cross-cultural adoptions is the high incidence of breakdown. Native activists argue that most of these adoptions are doomed. Typically, as the adopted child gets older, she starts acting out. She fails in school and gets in trouble with the law. Eventually, she runs away and winds up estranged from her adoptive family.

There are a thousand stories like this (the story of the Chrtiens' adopted son is one of them), each one sadder than the last. The standard explanation is that loss of culture is the cause of these disasters. The native child feels lost and adrift in a world that doesn't welcome him. Trapped between two worlds, he flounders. This is the case made by native leaders against cross-cultural adoption, and it is accepted wisdom among the social-work establishment. Undoubtedly there is some truth in it. Carla's brother is also adopted, and he had a harder time than she did, partly, she believes, because he knew nothing of his origins.

But there's another factor. It's so obvious, and so threatening to the project of repatriation, that even native social workers who believe it don't dare say so publicly. The real problem isn't loss of culture. It's FAS, fetal alcohol syndrome.

FAS kids of any race are brain-damaged. They have poor impulse control and a multitude of behavioural problems. They struggle in school. FAS is caused by maternal drinking during pregnancy, and on some native reserves the incidence of FAS or FAE, fetal alcohol effect, is upward of 30 per cent. The grotesque overrepresentation of natives in the prison system is also a product of FAS.

Carla spent a lot of time with her orphaned cousin, trying to help her with her homework. She was puzzled that the girl was so needy and so behind in school, until someone told her the girl had FAS.

Above all, FAS children need stability and structure. But what happens to native kids with FAS is guaranteed to make them worse. Their home lives are often violent and chaotic. If they're taken into care, they're bounced around from foster home to foster home. Any foster family that offers a stable home by way of adoption will be blocked by band politics. It is a recipe for ruin.

Currently, two Ontario families are fighting to adopt two half-native girls they have fostered since shortly after birth. But the birth mother's native band, 4,000 kilometres away in Squamish, is fighting, and the fight is messy, costly and prolonged. The band has deep pockets. Now it has launched a constitutional challenge in an effort to block the adoptions. The local children's aid society wants to send the kids back, too (where they will be placed with a single white woman with band connections), and this week Phil Fontaine weighed in with a letter to the judge that cited the usual "loss of culture" arguments. The constitutional challenge could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight, and the girls' would-be parents are out of money.

Three years ago, Ms. Newman went back to the reserve again, where she spent the summer working in the band's accounting office. Everybody told her how lucky she had been. They admired her success in life. She tried to talk to some of her cousins about going away to college. "Imagine what you could do if you went away and got educated," she told them. "Imagine how you could help First Nations people." But she couldn't connect. "It's really hard for them to grasp the concept of leaving the reserve."

Carla Newman embodies Phil Fontaine's worst fears. She will never go back to the place she came from, because she's found a better life. She has seen the life she would have had if her mother hadn't given her up. And she doesn't think that children who have found loving homes and parents should be made to suffer that fate either.

"Leave culture out of it," she says fiercely. "You're talking about people's lives."
In the US you will have to deal with the Indian Child Welfare Act. This is a federal law that deals with adoptive placement of Native children. The Act states that Native children can be placed with adoptive families in the following order:
1) Native biofamily
2) Native, same tribe, non-biofamily
3) Native, different tribe, non-biofamily
4) Non-native

The tribe has to agree to the adoptive placement of any tribal members (or the children of tribal members) and has up to two years from the date of finalization of the adoption to become involved.
Sadly glk is correct. Every agency we have looked at that has Native American children requires that the prospective family be registered as a native american family. We are a Hispanic family with Native blood way way way back (like great great grandparents) but proving it would be next to impossible. So, unless you are registered, these agencies won't even discuss these children with you because (as glk listed) Native families are considered priority.
I can understand the concern since Native Americans of all tribes are diminishing in alarming numbers and the remaining births are more and more 'diluted' by other races. There are very few 100% Native American children anymore. That being said, the way this world is going, combining races is the future of society. There are so many inter-racial relationships and mixed race children that the notion of staying with the 'same race' is fast becoming outdated. The best result would be to teach the child about not only their own heritage but your heritage as well so they can have the best of both worlds. Many parents are doing this now and this is what we plan to do when we adopt. Since we do not know what race of child we will be matched up with, we have decided that regardless of race, the child will learn both (or more) of all the cultures involved. This will educate them as well as ourselves!! Smile
Hopefully the tribal councils will one day come to recognize this as a wonderful way to not only maintain their beautiful culture but also introduce the specialness (is that a word??) of other cultures as well.
I wish you the best in your endeavors and hope all works out. Please keep us posted on your progress and the outcome.
The tribe may have jusridiction. If there are no families within the tribe suitable for her, then maybe the tribe would ok your family as long as you keep in touch with the tribe and provide her access to her culture. How old is your child? That may influence their decision also.
Wow...that's all I can say.

I am in Ontario and because I have Native blood in me (my grandmother is status) my husband and I decided to go through an Aboriginal fostering agency. Anyhow that made us somewhat aware of some of the issues with native children being placed in non-native homes versus native homes. I also realized that the band MUST give the ok before the child can be adopted.

All that said, I did not realize the problems that were involved in this. I personally know 2 non-native families that have adopted native children and neither expressed any problems with the band.

I am really really sorry if anyone has trouble adopting due to you being non-native. It is really sad actually. You see, the kids we have (fostering), all they needed was a good home one that had time to spend with them. They have been with us for almost 4 months and are prospering. It is unfortunate that they could have disregarded our home if we did not apply through the Aboriginal foster agency.

I have heard of preferring the Native, biological family over ANYONE else tho. We have been going through that with the boys as they are trying to see if there are any aunts available to foster them. But, I did not realize it was SOOOO strict in the US.
It is not just in the US that it is so strict to adopt a native child. It is that way in Canada as well. In Canada, children of Native heritage must have approval of the tribe, in which their prospective children are enrolled, to adopt. Also, if the elders cannot find someone within the tribe to adopt, they look for someone who can keep the child close to their tribe, and therefore in a position where the child can grow up understanding what it means to be a Native person. It is likely that you are from Northern Ontario, where many people in your area are Aboriginal?
I am Metis, as you are, and believe that Aboriginal children should be placed in Native families first. Since Aboriginal history is one filled with genocide (which actually continues to this day), it is of upmost importance to keep the child within an Aboriginal environment.
Don't believe everything people tell you regarding the Indian Child Welfare Act. Oftentimes, the social workers and attorneys themselves know very little about it.

Educate yourselves on the Act. Read it and learn it. Know everything about it. Don't let anyone try to feed you lies.

Pray, fight and pray some more.

That's what we did and we won -- we adopted two boys against the wishes of the tribe and against the wishes of the social workers.

I personally do not see how it is in a child's best interests to have his/her custody determined by a few drops of Indian blood when that is his/her only connection to the tribe. It makes no sense and does nothing to right the wrongs that led to the passage of the Act in the first place.
Seeking to Adopt

I am glad that I came across this forum. I can't have any children of my own anymore, and me and my mate have discussed adoption. My heart, as his is too, desire to adopt a Native American infant/child.

I am Metis and live the Red Path life of that of the American Natives. I do believe strongly in children being able to have access to their culture and history ... always. Unlike I was when growing up .... my own family history lost in the silence of "We don't talk about the native blood in the family." This old schooling of silence/shame/fears left me empty with knowing fully were my true clan is in Quebec.

I know that many Native Children have this taken away from them, and I wish to never be a part of that but to help them discover it and to see the beauty in their own culture.

Sorry... got rambling there but am a very passionate person when it comes to the Native Culture.

I am seeking some help here, as in where do I start with the processes of Adopting a Native child? I am in Ontario, and I've noticed a couple of posting by someone in Ontario, within this thread, that successful adoptive a Native child.

Any help, suggestions, etc that you can offer would be greatly appreciated. I really wish to give the love I have and share my home to help a Native child have a good family and home to grow up in and with.
whites adopting Native
Unfortunately, there may not be enough Native homes and a white home may be considered.

We are presently being considered, after fostering a severely disabled child since infancy for almost 2 years. I believe we may be positively considered because I study and use alternative medicines and also utilize a type of enery therapy which is in concert with Native spiritual teachings.

Of course, this was not known at time of placement, but over the two years the Native family and I have gotten to know each other and they have told me I have a Native Heart. I considered this the highest of compliments.

Regardless of the problems of the People and on the reservations, the native culture is wonderful. Just as there are many good things in any segment of white culture, there are still problems with addictions and poverty. I have studied extensively the Native culture and spiritual teachings and those are what I would want to instill in any child. I believe the generational thread runs in all of us and the First Nations People have a very long rich thread which is still closely tied to being one with the earth and people. Many of us have lost the idea that we are all one. We cannot deny the history of the Native children. We cannot deny the wrongs done to them. We cannot deny the strong unity to the earth and heavens.

I would suggest you contact someone who can start educating you about the Native culture-and please not making headbands type stuff, but in living with the earth and with people. Not living in judgement of others, but with a sense of being.

Approaching this with judgement and insistence, will only be considered more of 'white man's ways' and will show a poor ability to parent a Native child.

We may still be turned down by the tribal council even though the mom and grandma consider me his mother and want us to adopt him. We must be patient and trust in the wisdom of the elders. Being patient is crucial. Because of the length of time this has taken, we have had more time to know one another. I havehad more time to educate myself further. I've read many books suggested by the Grandma. Of course this will be open and we look forward to learning more of his culture. I havemade it clear that lthough he is very disabled, his spirit i s whole and the Native part must be nurtured. I have accumulated a large set of tapes and CD's (child cannot see or will probably not read) and play these for him. He is getting a real drum for Christmas.

We have adopted two other children of Cherokee history, but they were not on rolls, so did not have to get tribal permission.

We look forward to enriching the whole family with the extra teaching of his heritage.

I suggest you read as much as you can about why the ICWA needed to come about and then start reading about the Native teachings. Blackwolf Jones and wife, Gina Jones, have some wonderful books. His grandma suggested "The Healing Blanket" and I just read it. It has three parts, a story, a section on Native ways, and poetry.

Adopting a First Peoples child means you adopt the history also.

If you can do this, it will enrich your lives tremendously.
In reply to doylene
Hi doylene,

Thank you for your post. I think that I may not have made myself clear unfortunately.

I do live and breath daily the Native ways of life. I walk the Red Path Road on a daily bases. I attend powwows, go to sweats, healing circles, do native crafts and have contact with a couple of medicine woman. On a monthly bases, I go to a known Reserve here in Ontario. I am very unbias but do understand the Native ways of life and their pains that they endure as well as see it, hear it, whenever on the Reserve. I stay up to par as much as possible with government policies that will and can and do impact the Native peoples.

Yes, you did get a high compliment when told by others your heart is very much Native Smile ... I am Metis, mixed blood, but when asked if Native or not, I state I am Native fully. I walk and live the drum beat of mother earth and her teachings, as well as apply them spiritually too.

After posting in this thread, I thought, .. oh silly me, I should go and talk with the Native Elders there at the Reserve to see about becoming a Foster parent, then in the long run hopefully being able to adopt Smile As well as talking to a good friend of mine on the reserve there for any advice in how to go about this as well. She too can give me a good reference to the red path I follow in my life Smile

Any more advice on how to go about this, and what organization to plugin to would be appreciated "hugs"
Dear WolfSpirit,

I was replying to Butterfy-Cheek concerning whites adopting Native Children.

You have no need for what I shared-you know. You would be the ideal of any agency to be able to place Native children. I felt love and warmth in your letter, so please know I was not thinking you needed to know more. You find the ICWA agency that represents your area and get started. You would be a wonderful resource.

I would hope you would also share with those whites who have adopted Native children, so the history is not lost but shared. The world could only be a better place if we all practiced the true teachings. That could be said of most spiritual teachings, could it not?

I heard of a program in Canada for non-Native parents of Native children. I have not been able to find that near where we live. I am depending on the Grandma to help us participate in the culture. She is putting together the naming ceremony. I am very excited for this to happen.

Please keep in touch and let me know if and when you get a child.

I have not heard of the Metis or Red Path. I would like to know more. Our little one is Chippewa- Anishinaabe. I think I said our other two are Cherokee. How I wish I could know I had a drop of Native blood. My father was a great student of Native history and taught me many things as a child. He is gone now.

Perhaps I should share other things personally, so if you want to share more we can write privately.
Adopting native child
This is my first posting on this site, so I hope I am using this forum appropriately. I am making the same post in a couple of threads.

I am currently working on a Cree reserve in northern Canada, and am interested in providing foster care and possible adopting a particular little girl. I am not of Native heritage, and do not have any other children. The child is 6 years old, and is currently living in an unstable foster home (her grandmother). I think that her family may be interested/open to having someone provide a stable home for her. They have no idea I am interested at this point.

I have lived on the reserve for two years, and plan to live here at least another year, perhaps longer. I have learned a lot about the culture in my community and am friends with, and work with, many community members. It would be very important to me that this child would learn about and be involved in her Cree heritage. I do not plan on adopting her and then taking her away from her community and relatives forever.

Could anyone give me some information of is cross-cultural adoption is possible in Canada, and what my first steps in inquiring into adopting/fostering this child would be - talking to a Social Worker? I have read the posts about the ICWA, and realize some people's opinion about this issue. I am concerend about this child and really want to provide her with a loving and stable home. I welcome any information, comments and opinions. Thanks!
In our state it is nearly impossible to adopt a native child if you yourself are not native... I've posted several times about why, and I believe the reasons are quite well-intentioned and well thought out.

I also know that families come in all shapes, sizes and colors... if you do adopt a native american baby/child - please educate them about their culture and all it entails, get comfortable with it so THEY are comfortable with ALL of who they are your child AND native american
Jeanne21 said...
It is not just in the US that it is so strict to adopt a native child. It is that way in Canada as well. In Canada, children of Native heritage must have approval of the tribe, in which their prospective children are enrolled, to adopt.

I am the Mother of two children through adoption. Both are of Canadian Aboriginal heritage. We were chosen by their first mothers, both Metis and they were placed with us at birth. The adoptions are final.

Not every adoption of a child with Native heritage in Canada must be approved by the Band. In our situations, our childrens' first mothers were given the choice to consult the band and chose not to consult them. They made the placement of their choice. Neither had strong ties to the band and did not live in a Native community. I just wanted to clarify that not every situation has to have the approval of the tribe. We are looking forward to giving them opportunities to embrace their Native heritage within our family, just as their first mothers' wished.
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