Lawsuits Attack Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Misuse

imagesFor every other race, it’s illegal to place a child
on the basis of race in the United States. 
Except if your child is Indian.
–Mark Fiddler, adoption attorney

A number of lawsuits by non-profits and class action plaintiffs all around the country have been filed, alleging equal protection violations.

First, on May 27th, NCFA filed a lawsuit again the Bureau of Indian Affairs for its 2015 guidelines, which direct judges to disregard the best interests of abused Indian children when making foster care and adoptive placements. You can read that lawsuit here.

Then June 3rd, plaintiffs in Twin Cities, Minnesota also filed a lawsuit against Minnesota for restricting their ability to choose an adoptive placement for their child because of the child’s Native American ancestry. The couple is represented by the well-known adoption attorney and advocate for ICWA reform, Mark Fiddler. You can read that lawsuit here.

On July 6th, the Goldwater Institute was the most recent to file a class action lawsuit against the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Goldwater Institute has thorough, well-researched reports on ICWA’s serious problems and the court filing links HERE.

Adoption in Kenya: Impossible For Both Kenyans And Foreigners

kenya_flagKenya has between one and three million orphans. These children live in institutions, brothels, on the streets, in forced labor, or in child-headed “households.”

And yet, in November of 2014, Kenya instituted a ban on foreigners adopting, claiming that human trafficking is a problem in Kenya. While it is true that human trafficking is a problem in Kenya, it has nothing to with international adoption. In fact, it is the Kenyan children who are NOT adopted who are at risk of being trafficked–for sex, crime, militias and hard labor. This is yet another adoption moratorium born of cynical politics. It professes to help children when in reality it does nothing but hurt them. And countries are still getting away with it because the international community has chosen not to enforce the orphan’s human right to a loving, permanent family.

Not only will all of these children never be adopted by foreigners, they will never be adopted by anyone. Few Kenyans are interested in adopting. Out of the few who are, they have discovered that the legal process for domestic adoption is virtually impossible to navigate (because no culture of adoption exists, so no one tests the system or advocates for improvements). So in response to these legal barriers, infertile Kenyan women are now lobbying for surrogacy laws in Kenya so they can have babies via Kenyan surrogates.

As Kenya’s surrogacy laws advance to be among the most modern, its adoption laws regress while millions of Kenyan orphans languish without parents.

International Adoptions Drop to Lowest Level in Over 30 Years

OG-AE077_AdoptP_8H_20150331180946Today the State Department is releasing numbers for 2014 international adoptions to and from the United States. For the tenth consecutive year, international adoptions have fallen, now below 6,500, all while millions of children live unparented on the streets, in institutions, or enslaved.

The State Department’s response disavows any responsibility or influence over the situation. Adoptive families and professionals feel disgust, because we know that not only has the State Department intentionally hurt international adoption, it has no clue about how to be advocacy-centered.

In a sliver of good news, yesterday President Obama spoke with President Kabila and asked him to release the hundreds of Congolese children waiting to be united with their American adoptive families. To the best of my knowledge, this may be the first time that the White House has ever acknowledged advocating for American adoptive families.

Update: the annual report is now available HERE.

The Real Reason Your Government Wants to End International Adoptions


International adoptions numbers all over the world have drastically fallen in the past decade and continue to fall. We often blame wealthy countries for overregulating adoptions, poor countries for xenophobia, and the international community for creating treaties that dismantle the entire structure for adoptions while removing incentives to create new and effective ones.

But what is really going on here? All of those moving pieces are complex and couldn’t have been efficient at closing international adoption even if it had been an intentional, well-coordinated effort.

Continue reading The Real Reason Your Government Wants to End International Adoptions

Why the DRC “suspension” on exit letters for orphans is illegal

rp_kabila-kerry-cartoon-1024x724.jpgIn September 2013, the executive branch of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) announced that it had suspended the issuance of “exit letters” to Congolese orphans already legally adopted by foreigners. My daughter was one of those children.

The DRC has gone far beyond any previous adoption ban or suspension, by restricting already-adopted children from leaving the country. Even Russia allowed already-adopted children to leave the country when it implemented its adoption ban. At least 13 children adopted by Americans have died from preventable, treatable illnesses since their detention began.

I can’t help but think that the DRC detention is illegal according to DRC and international law. Here is why: Continue reading Why the DRC “suspension” on exit letters for orphans is illegal

Florida legislature would allow adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBT families

imgresIn  2010,  Florida courts ended Florida’s 33-year ban on adoptions by gay and lesbians when they ruled that the ban violated the equal protection rights of the children and their prospective parents under the Florida Constitution. In re Gill was a groundbreaking case because it spoke not only of adult rights to a family, but of a child’s right to a family.

The ban has remained on the books, however, even though it was nullified by the court’s decision. This legislative session, the Florida House introduced a bill to formally repeal the ban. Unfortunately, in the backlash of marriage legalization in Florida, the House also introduced an amendment to allow private “faith-based” adoption and foster agencies to discriminate against LGBT families and non-Christian families based upon “conscience.”

Continue reading Florida legislature would allow adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBT families

Adoption Attorneys Oppose New Federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Guidelines

rp_IMG_0243-1024x768.jpgThe prestigious American Academy of Adoption Attorneys has just released a press release citing its disappointment with the Department of Interior’s recently issued guidelines from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) concerning the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). You can read the entire press release HERE.

In particular, adoption attorneys, judges and scholars are alarmed at the Bureau of Indian Affairs deliberate effort to bypass input from the Academy, the public, and other child-focused organizations.

The new Guidelines explicitly direct courts to disregard the best interests and human rights of children, and treat children instead as possessions of tribes.


Why You Should Love “Just Love Coffee Roasters”

imgresI love a business with a heart. So I was thrilled to learn about Just Love Coffee Roasters, a company committed to great coffee beans and social justice. In its first two years of business, Just Love Coffee Roasters gave over $200,000 to adopting families, non-profit organizations, and the arts. Just Love Coffee Roasters sources only the finest Fair Trade, Direct Trade, organic, and shade-grown coffee beans from the best growing regions around the world. The company researches the co-ops it works with and is diligent about sustainability.

And I was especially moved that the founder of Just Love Coffee Roasters is now advocating for stuck DRC families by urging its buyers to sign a petition which urges President Obama to actively engage to bring home hundreds of children who have been abducted from their legal, loving families and are being held hostage.

Do you drink coffee? Please consider buying from Just Love Coffee Roasters. And while you are at it, please sign the petition!

Distorting the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)

The boys with a picture of Chief White Cloud, their ancestor
The boys with two of their Native American ancestors.

This is a guest blog post from Johnston Moore. Johnston Moore and his wife Terri have been married 26 years and have adopted seven children from the Los Angeles County foster care system. After a career in Hollywood, John co-founded and now serves as Executive Director of Home Forever. John writes extensively and speaks at numerous churches and conferences about foster care and adoption, and he strongly believes that children, traumatized or not, need stability and permanence far more than some manufactured phantom connection to a culture that was never theirs.

Last December, Attorney General Eric Holder announced a new DOJ initiative aimed at promoting compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), a 1978 federal law passed in response to the “wholesale removal” of Native American children from their families. Tribes were rightly concerned at the time that many Indian children were removed from their families by non-Indian social workers unfamiliar with tribal child-rearing practices and placed in non-Indian foster and adoptive homes away from Indian Country, where many were forced to assimilate into the majority culture, losing connection to the tribal life and customs in which they had been raised. Tribes and Indian families suffered greatly too, as they saw many of their younger members taken away.

In his announcement, Holder pledged to “ensure that the next generation of great tribal leaders can grow up in homes that are not only safe and loving, but also suffused with the proud traditions of Indian cultures.” In that statement, Holder demonstrates an alarming level of naiveté regarding ICWA, and the ways it is impacting children today.

I’ve often held, rather simply, that two of the measures of a good law are that, 1) it does what it was intended to do, and 2) it doesn’t do what it wasn’t intended to do. By this second measure, ICWA, though well-intentioned, fails monumentally, and does so in ways that increased compliance will mean only more disruption and trauma for many children.

Continue reading Distorting the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)

Does Illinois Hate Adoption?

200px-Seal_of_Illinois.svgAn adoptive family wrote this post about what they say is Illinois’ hostile attitude toward adoption. The writer makes a detailed, insightful critique of Illinois’ interference in international adoptions, as well as specific recommendations for improving the system. I highly recommend my readers visit this blogger’s site and consider helping this blogger with her advocacy and struggle to bring home a little girl who needs permanency now.

Have any readers had specific experiences with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services? Does Illinois have a bias against adoption?