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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Manitoba Province readying to unseal adoption records next month

When Darcy Truthwaite, a nurse in Fisher Branch, cold-called her birth family in Winnipeg, she didn’t plan on blurting out the reason.
"I said to the man who answered, ‘I don’t want to interfere, but my search for my birth family has led me to you,’ " said Truthwaite.
"He said, ‘You’re not interfering.’ That was the perfect thing to say."
An hour later, Truthwaite found herself on the phone with three aunts, all asking her questions at the same time. An hour after that, her birth mother called from Alberta. The next week, they met in Medicine Hat.
That scenario, hopefully as happy, could be replayed hundreds of times this summer as the Manitoba government prepares to unseal 70 years worth of adoption records.
The Selinger government will announce legislation passed last year will come into force June 15. Already, roughly 1,000 people have applied to see their files. Provincial staff have begun pulling the records so the documents can be released quickly after changes to the Adoption Act and the Vital Statistics Act are proclaimed into law.
Meanwhile, fewer than 60 people, mostly mothers, have filed disclosure vetoes asking the province to keep their records secret. That’s a small number amid an estimated 50,000 files, but roughly the number provincial officials expected.
"This is about the right to identity, but not necessarily a right to a relationship," cautioned Janice Knight, manager of adoption and post-adoption programs in the Family Services Department. "If you’re going to say, ‘No, this is the secret of my life, I don’t want to share it,’ we really respect that."

Manitoba’s adoption records have been sealed since 1925. In 1999, the province took a half-measure toward fully open adoption records, allowing anyone born after 1999 to see their file once they reach adulthood. Since then, adoption advocates have lobbied Manitoba to follow other provinces and unseal all records, even though the province originally promised birth parents they’d be kept secret.
Come June 15, adoptees and birth parents will have access to birth records, adoption documents and other identifying information.
Debbie McMechan says she wishes adoption records had been unsealed when
she was searching for her birth father. (PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE Press)



KEEP READING:  Province readying to unseal adoption records next month

Friday, May 22, 2015

War of Words: ICWA Hearings Reignite Ancient Clash Over Indian Children, Part 1

ICWA Hearings Melissa Clyde Nevaeh
(Suzette Brewer photo) Melissa Clyde, Navajo Nation, attended the hearings in Albuquerque with her 18-month-old daughter, Nevaeh Asdzaan Atsa Woods.

5/21/15
John Echohawk had heard enough. On May 14, he had listened with growing irritation to lawyers representing the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys (AAAA) denigrate the recently published guidelines and proposed rule for the Indian Child Welfare Act in front of the very people who had authored them.

As the founder of the Native American Rights Fund, Echohawk had flown to Tulsa to provide his comments in the standing-room-only ballroom at the Marriott. Hundreds of Indian people, tribal leaders, ICWA workers and lawyers from across the country had converged on Tulsa for the sixth—and largest—public hearing conducted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in anticipation of the agency updating and enforcing the provisions of the 37-year-old federal statute.
John Echohawk, founder and executive director of the Native American Rights Fund, provides testimony on the new ICWA rules in Tulsa on May 14. (Courtesy Frank Duncan)
John Echohawk

Throughout the day, one after the other, witnesses on both sides had pulled back and forth in a tug-of-war regarding perhaps the most seminal issue confronting American Indian tribes in the 21st century: The right to raise their own children in their home communities.

The debates at the public hearings reopened old grievances and unhealed wounds at the core of an ongoing conflict over Indian children that has been raging for more than 500 years. Beginning with the Spaniards, who landed in the West Indies in the late 15th century, Indian tribes have been at war over possession of their children with one power after another—including the British, the French, the Dutch and the United States—ever since.

For nearly a year, many of the people attending these public hearings had worked in near-unprecedented solidarity with tribal nations across the country and numerous Indian child welfare organizations to submit comments and suggested changes to the new guidelines before they were published by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in February.

In March, Assistant Secretary for the BIA Kevin Washburn took it a step further by announcing the agency’s intention to seek a federal rule that would make ICWA binding, rather than “legally persuasive”—which allowed social service agencies, adoption attorneys and state court judges to bypass the law at their discretion since the passage of the ICWA in 1978.

The period for public comment concluded at midnight Monday, after which the BIA began the process of evaluating and analyzing testimony and written comments before publishing the final rule in the Federal Registry later this year. The rule will then become codified into the Code of Federal Regulations.

As the hearing in Tulsa got underway, adoption attorneys lined up at the microphone. Among their complaints: Indian parents and tribes “never” show up in court to intervene in ICWA foster cases; the BIA does not have authority to enact regulations; the BIA failed to “consult” the adoption industry; Indian children with low blood quantums should not be eligible for ICWA; that being forced to attend the hearings was subjecting the adoption attorneys to a “hostile environment,” that the hearings were only held “east of the Mississippi;” the postage costs required by the rule are too expensive, and so on.
A number of people testified at public hearings on ICWA. (Courtesy Frank Duncan)
A number of people testified at public hearings on ICWA. (Courtesy Frank Duncan)

All of these claims were refuted by tribal witnesses, in perhaps one of the most contested rulemaking procedures in the history of Indian affairs. Tribal attorneys and ICWA workers said their intervention on behalf of their children in state courts across the country is routinely met with irritation by family court judges and social services, if not outright contempt. Often, they said, judges and social workers make it as difficult as possible for tribes to locate and reclaim their children. The emergency temporary custody hearings, they said, are often perfunctory and dismissive of ICWA and its provisions and are the point of permanent departure for many Indian kids.

In many cases, the tribes argued, they are never given notification that one of their children is in the system. “We can’t help a child we don’t know about,” said one.

By this point, John Echohawk was seething. Stepping to the microphone, he ripped the adoption industry for not only their lack of knowledge about Native people, but their inability to grasp the fundamental reasons ICWA was enacted in the first place.

“Since the Native American Rights Fund was organized 45 years ago, we have been involved in thousands of cases across the country which involve our sovereignty, our homelands and our culture. Some have been Indian child welfare,” he said, his voice rising in an uncharacteristic show of public anger. “I support the proposed rule because ICWA enables us as tribal governments to protect our children to stop their wholesale removal. But in my opinion, the biggest problem we face as Indian people is the ignorance on display by social services, lawyers, state judges—and yes, even Supreme Court justices.”
The growing conflict between the tribes and the adoption industry had been brewing for years and came to a head during Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl in 2013. But it flared anew earlier this year after the Bureau of Indian Affairs published the guidelines in February. The AAAA immediately issued a press release on March 12 crying foul.

Last Wednesday, in advance of the final public hearing in Tulsa, the AAAA issued another press release challenging the BIA’s authority to engage in rulemaking, saying that the proposed changes “are contrary to the best interests of Indian children, Indian parents, and will only foster increased litigation and constitutional challenges.”

According to their website, the American Academy of Adoption Attorney is a not-for-profit organization comprised of attorneys, judges and law professors throughout the United States and Canada whose mission is to “protect the interest of all parties to adoption,” including “legislative efforts to amend ICWA and establish federal protections for birth parents.”

For tribal nations, their legal teams and many Indian child welfare professionals, however, the industry complaints are only new insofar as the organized ground game employed to forfend any changes to a business structure by an aggressive, well-funded industry. According to market research giant, IBISWorld, for example, adoption in the United States is a big business, pulling in some copy4 billion a year with a projected annual growth of nearly 10 percent, as approximately 150,000 children a year are placed for adoption.

Meanwhile, Russia, India and other countries including China, Vietnam, Guatemala and Nepal have either banned, temporarily halted, or severely restricted adoptions to the U.S. due to ongoing concerns around corruption, coercion and baby-selling, as well as the growing practice of “re-homing” adopted children to new homes with little or no oversight.

Several tribal lawyers felt the AAAA’s claims were disingenuous, at best. In its March 12, 2015 press release, the AAAA charged the new guidelines were published “in what appears to be a purposeful effort to bypass input from our Academy,” and that it was “stunned by the lack of due process.” However, as far back as April 15, 2014 the Academy was participating in the process as evidenced in a seven-page letter (click here to see the full letter in PDF form) that former AAAA president Donald Cofsky wrote to the Bureau of Indian Affairs with comments and proposed changes to the guidelines.
“[The new guidelines] were not a ‘surprise.’ It was public knowledge and everyone in the industry, Indian and non-Indian alike, knew the guidelines were being revised,” said one tribal lawyer who declined to be identified because the process is still underway. “But their strategy has always been to engage in equivocation and tergiversation in order to maintain the status quo, because any changes represent a loss of profit to their bottom line. So our message is very direct: The adoption industry doesn’t care about our Indian kids, all they care about is money. And that’s fairly transparent.”

Throughout the process, the Academy has insisted that court proceedings should weigh the “best interests” of the child, including “attachment and bonding” with prospective parents, which has been de-emphasized under the new proposed guidelines and rule. Bonding, the industry says, is not simply a legal mechanism used to override ICWA, but a guiding principle followed by its members.
The tribes, however, maintain that the standard operating procedure among the states is to unnecessarily hold Indian children as “hostages” in state custody for months on end—only to claim the child had “bonded” with their foster family to clear the way for termination of parental rights and formal adoption. Lengthy foster stays, they testified, merely allows “possession by estoppel,” a legal mechanism designed to cleave and hew Indian children from their families and tribes.

“Powerful Interests Have Surrounded Us”
Dr. Evelyn Blanchard is a member of the Laguna Pueblo of New Mexico and has been working in the field of Indian child welfare for over 50 years. A grandmother and tribal elder, Blanchard was one of the first Indian women in the country to earn a doctorate and has worked with tribes across the U.S. and Canada to establish and codify their child welfare laws. Additionally, she has worked with several states to implement best practices in the promulgation of ICWA.
Dr. Evelyn Blanchard, Laguna Pueblo provided comments and testimony at the BIA ICWA hearings in Albuquerque on May 5. (Suzette Brewer)
Dr. Evelyn Blanchard, Laguna Pueblo provided comments and testimony at the BIA ICWA hearings in Albuquerque on May 5. (Suzette Brewer)

She says ICWA has always faced opposition from the social service and private adoption industries, but she is now deeply concerned about the aggressive campaign to undermine it. “These are powerful interests that have surrounded us because of an underlying assumption that Indian kids would be better off being raised outside their communities,” Blanchard told ICTMN. “I’ve worked in this field a long time and I can tell you theirs is an everlasting belief that Indians are not worthy. But it is my position that what constitutes ‘best interest’ of our children is not in sync between the Western and Native mind-sets. We talk a lot about historical trauma, but the trauma is happening now. We have to stand up and say, ‘No more.’”

Blanchard attended the public hearings in Albuquerque earlier this month. In her testimony, she recounted a recent case in which two tribal children had been seized by New Mexico’s Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) and separated into two non-Indian foster homes 250 miles away, over their grandmother’s fierce objections. After what Blanchard described as a cursory investigation, CYFD said it had engaged in “reasonable efforts” to place the children in an ICWA-compliant home.

“Their idea of ‘reasonable efforts’ in this case is completely insufficient,” said Blanchard. “There was a unilateral decision made regarding their emergency placement and that’s what happens when so much is left to individual discretion, which is compounded when you have social workers out in the boonies. But the way the guidelines are written you don’t have to engage in placement efforts until after they have been seized—but it has to happen immediately.”

At press time, CYFD had not responded to ICTMN’s request for a response to Blanchard’s presentation.

Because so many Indian children wind up in lengthy stays in non-Indian foster homes, Blanchard has been watching Oglala v. Van Hunnik in South Dakota, a case which has gained national attention for violations of state and federal law by social workers and judges in the initial “48-hour” hearings in that state. In April, a judge in the Eighth Circuit recently issued a summary judgment in favor of the tribal plaintiffs because of the overwhelming evidence against the state. The defendants, however, have asked the Eighth Circuit to reconsider its ruling, which is still pending. ICWA experts say that the outcome in that case could redefine and enforce ICWA at its most critical stage: The emergency custody hearing, at which the fate of thousands of Indian children is decided each year.

“Tribal Values are Inferior”
For tribal nations, support of ICWA is not only about upholding and enforcing a nearly 40-year-old law, but also a crucial defense of the rights of Indian children and the battle to guarantee the survival of the nations themselves. To that end, the Navajo Nation and the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, the two largest Indian nations in the United States, have stepped forward as the proposed rule’s most vocal proponents.

Chrissi Ross Nimmo, assistant attorney general of the Cherokee Nation, gave the formal testimony on behalf of the tribe in Tulsa. “I think it’s important that this committee and that the executive branch know that when we hear about children being forcibly removed from their families, that this is not just historical accounts,” said Nimmo. “This is not the boarding schools, this is not the state and federal government-supported adoption plans [of the 50s and 60s]. This is modern day and [Baby Veronica] is but one example of hundreds and thousands of children every year that are being taken away from their families and their tribes.”

In their written comments to the BIA, the nation was more blunt: “[They] embrace the idea that tribal families and tribal value systems are inferior to the families and values of the dominant culture,” said the Cherokee Nation. “These people brutalize tribal children and tear Indian families apart, and then portray themselves as the protectors for children’s rights...It is sometimes appalling, 38 years after the passage of ICWA, the comments that we still hear from state employees, attorneys and even Judges. We see what works when the spirit, purpose and letter of ICWA is followed and we see the tragedies that occur when it is not followed.

This week, however, in a significant blow to the AAAA’s position, the 400,000-member strong American Bar Association, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Casey Foundation all co-signed their support of the new ICWA regulations, along with hundreds of law professors, tribal representatives and Indian child welfare experts from across the country.

Sharon Begay-McCabe, a tribal court advocate, prosecutor and former director of the Navajo Nation Division of Social Services, discussed the gravitas of the challenge facing Indian tribes during the rulemaking process.

“Children want to know who they are and where they’re from and I think children who are raised knowing who they are have a much higher chance of success in life,” she told ICTMN after the hearing in Albuquerque. “The Navajo Nation supports this effort because we continue to have problems with the states that don’t follow the law. There needs to be enforcement and penalties so we can ensure that that ICWA is followed, because when it’s not, it hurts the child, the family, the community and the tribe as a whole. We can no longer tolerate this type of tribal destruction.
“Children,” she said, “are a gift from the holy people and there’s no price you can put on them.”

The Bureau of Indian Affairs concluded the period for public comment at midnight on May 19. According to BIA spokeswoman Nedra Darling, formal analysis of data and comments will begin and the final rule is expected later this year.

Please visit ICTMN next week for War of Words: Part 2

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/05/21/war-words-icwa-hearings-reignite-ancient-clash-over-indian-children-part-1-160454

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Last Day for Comments

Law Professors Comment on Proposed ICWA Regulations

Here. Signed by 21 clinicians, professors, and deans representing more than 15 law schools.
Times have certainly changed since the original Guidelines were issued. Administrative law and the power of the federal government have shifted considerably in the past forty years. In addition, there was no way the federal government could foresee the dramatically different applications of ICWA across the fifty states. These new regulations are necessary because without them the application of the law is arbitrary, with Indian children treated differently depending on which state’s courtroom they are in. Having disparate interpretations of ICWA was certainly not the intent of Congress in passing a federal law, and conflicts with the rationale of the Supreme Court’s decision in Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians v. Holyfield, 490 U.S. 30, 45-46 (1989) (describing the need for uniformity in defining ‘‘domicile’’ under ICWA). These regulations will provide a stronger measure of consistency in the implementation of ICWA and prevent the application of different minimum standards across the United States, contrary to Congress’ intent.
Here is a selection of a few of the major groups in support (as available from Regulations.gov or sent directly to us at fort [at] law [dot] msu [dot] edu):
American Bar Association
Association on American Indian Affairs
Michigan Tribal-State Judicial Forum
National Indian Child Welfare Association
National American Indian Court Judges Association
National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges

Today is the last day to comment–send an email to comments@bia.gov with “ICWA” in the subject line.



And this is an important paper:


[PDF] The Indian Child Welfare Act's Waning Power After Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl

K Kruck - Northwestern University Law Review, 2015
... These findings were based on a North Dakota study and a study of tribes in the American
Northwest. Id. ... 


Saturday, May 16, 2015

ICWA GUIDELINES UPDATE Deadline is May 19, 2015



Leland Morrill sent this message:
Published on May 15, 2015

ICWA Guidelines Reminder
 
Email:
comments@bia.gov by May 19, 2015
 
LINK: https://youtu.be/2CcO6mh69GY

Sample Letter PDF:
http://www.nicwa.org/government/ICWA_...

Los Angeles County American Indian Unit 626-938-1722

Friday, May 15, 2015

Dusten Brown issues first public comments since 'Baby Veronica' custody battle

www.tulsaworld.com | May 15, 2015

Making his first public comments since ending the legal battle over "Baby Veronica" two years ago," Dusten Brown endorsed a set of proposed federal regulations that are meant to avoid the kind of adoption dispute that he endured.

Not appearing in person, the biological father issued a statement through a Cherokee Nation attorney, breaking his silence for the first time since October 2013, when he ended a four-year custody battle with adoptive parents from South Carolina.


"Hopefully, these regulations keep other Indian children, families and tribes from suffering the heartbreak that we experienced over the last five and a half years," Brown said.

KEEP READING

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Alberta adoptee finds biological family online after nearly 4 decades

(Charlene’s sister Priscilla Giesbrecht, Charlene Whitford and sister Crystal Whitford.)



An Edmonton woman who was adopted at age three found her biological family using social media.
In less than 24 hours after posting a photo of herself on Facebook posing with a poster of handwritten information about her birth mother, Charlene Whitford, 41, was reconnected to her family.
She said that she was overwhelmed with the quick response and that her post was shared over 12,000 times.
A cousin of Whitford’s first saw the post on Facebook and added her as a friend, who then put her in touch with her extended family.
Whitford’s birth mother’s sister then called her and told her that her mother Margret Whitford had died 28 years ago.
“As much as I wanted to and I hoped and I was looking forward to meeting her,” said Whitford.  “I did break down when I was told that she was not with us anymore.”
She also was told that her birth father had also died.
Despite learning of the loss of her birth parents Whitford discovered that she has a large extended family including nine brothers and sisters.
They were all adopted out as well.
“So, it’s kind of like a bittersweet story,” said Whitford about reuniting with her family.


“I just had so many emotions overcome me that I ended up crying right then and there.” Charlene Whitford


Just 10 days after she first made the Facebook post, Whitford met some of her family members, including three of her sisters in Edmonton.
“It was very overwhelming,” she said.
At the meeting, one of her aunt’s brought a picture of her birth mother and showed it to her.
“I just had so many emotions overcome me that I ended up crying right then and there. Just looking at the picture of her I could finally see a mirror image of myself.”
Whitford said she grew up in a loving German family, speaks German and identifies with that culture.
Her legal last name is Schmidt, however she changed her last name on Facebook to her birth mother’s Whitford to make it easier for her biological family to find her.
Whitford said her adoptive mother has been very supportive of her reuniting with her biological family.
“When I came and told her before I went to meet them all, she was so happy for me, she had a big smile,” said Whitford of her mother’s reaction to the news. “She was almost in tears herself. She said ‘I’m so happy for you.”
She learned that her birth mother Margaret was Cree from the Saddlelake Cree Nation north of Edmonton and Whitford is looking forward to getting in touch with her Indigenous roots.
“It’s been great. I’m going to my first pow wow in June in Saddlelake. I’m looking forward to it. It’s already circulating up there that I’m coming.”
To sum up the experience and witnessing first-hand the power of social media Whitford believes finding her family that way was meant to be.
“It’s absolutely amazing and it was divine timing! Everything happens for a reason and I couldn’t be happier right now.”
She is still looking to find two of her siblings, a brother and sister and plans to again use social media with hopes of locating them.

SOURCE

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Curing the Tribal Disenrollment Epidemic: Calling for Change

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ARIZONA LAW REVIEW PUBLISHES GALANDA & DREVESKRACHT ARTICLE DETAILING TRIBAL DISENROLLMENT EPIDEMIC AND CALLING FOR A CURE

TUCSON, A, (May 11, 2015) – The editors of Arizona Law Review are pleased to announce the publication of Issue 57:1 which features the article Curing the Tribal Disenrollment Epidemic: In Search of a Remedy by Gabriel S. Galanda and Ryan D. Dreveskracht.


Download and read Curing the Tribal Disenrollment Epidemic: In Search of a Remedy here http://www.arizonalawreview.org/pdf/57-2/57arizlrev383.pdf

The article provides a comprehensive analysis of tribal membership, and the divestment thereof— commonly known as “disenrollment.” Chiefly caused by the proliferation of Indian gaming revenue distributions to tribal members over the last 25 years, the rate of tribal disenrollment has spiked to epidemic proportions and is without a remedy. The article, using historic and contemporary case studies, details the federal government’s role in promoting disenrollment and describes how disenrollment operates in ways that are antithetical to tribal sovereignty and self-determination. In concludes with potential solutions to cure the tribal disenrollment epidemic.

Praise for Curing the Tribal Disenrollment Epidemic: “This article is the most important, and most thoroughly researched and argued treatment of the tribal disenrollment available in literature,” says Professor Robert A. Williams, Jr., Co-Chair of the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program at the University of Arizona. He adds, “It is a must read for all of Indian country.”

Galanda is a 2000 graduate of the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law, and is an enrolled member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes. He is a founding partner of the law firm Galanda Broadman, PLLC, in Seattle; his firm represents tribal governments, businesses and members in all varieties of dispute resolution and business matters. Galanda’s practice focuses on complex, multi-party litigation and crisis management, representing tribal governments and businesses. As an emerging leader in the legal profession, he was named to the Puget Sound Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” and the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development’s “Native American 40 Under 40” lists. Galanda also serves on the Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management and Policy’s International Advisory Council. Galanda recently served as the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program Distinguished Practitioner in Residence, lecturing on issues such as disenrollment and working with students.

Co-author Ryan D. Dreveskracht is a 2009 graduate of the University of Arizona James E.
Rogers College of Law. At Galanda Broadman, PLLC, his practice focuses on representing businesses and tribal governments in public affairs, gaming, taxation, and energy development. He writes prolifically about matters critical to Indian country, and has published in numerous peer-reviewed journals and law reviews. In 2013, he was named a “Rising Star” by the Super Lawyers rating service and Seattle Met Magazine.

Arizona Law Review is a student-edited journal that publishes four issues annually.

Curing the Tribal Disenrollment Epidemic: In Search of a Remedy and archival issues can be viewed at www.arizonalawreview.org.

Contact:
Chris Sloot, Editor-in-Chief, Arizona Law Review (520) 621-5500

[I did read this paper (92 pages) and it's very important. It's very very important we stand together. As adoptees we know we have to work hard to be brought back to our nations. Trace]

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Adoption reunion: Calgary woman meets her daughter after 39 years


'I was expecting a name, I wasn't expecting a mom,' says Tamela Dunn after meeting birth mother Jo-Ann Gerow

Making and remaking the bed, taking long walks and writing in her diary, Jo-Ann Gerow does everything she can to pass the time.
She is waiting for a very special visitor.
"Surreal, like I'm waiting to wake up from a dream," Gerow said about the day she has hoped would happen for almost 40 years.
Gerow is 59, but she gave birth to a baby girl when she was 19 and gave her up for adoption.
Jo-Ann Gerow, Tamela Dunn adoption reunion
Jo-Ann Gerow had two other daughters after Tamela Dunn's birth but never married. (Terri Trembath/CBC)
"I had just graduated high school, and wasn't too sure what I was going to be doing with my life, or in my life, and I had thought about giving the baby up to a member of my family, but then I thought I would get jealous over time," said Gerow.
The year was 1976. Gerow was kept in hospital to care for the baby for 10 days.
Originally from Burns Lake, B.C., Gerow was living in Kitimat, B.C., and clearly remembers the day she left the hospital.

A missing piece

"When I walked out, the sun was shining. I felt that on my face and I looked across the city of Kitimat and I started praying to God that he would bless and protect her and that we would be reunited one day," Gerow said.
Not knowing where her daughter went, or anything about the family that adopted her, Gerow says she had no choice but to continue living life.
Over the years, Gerow went on to have two other daughters, but she never married. She says her first child was always a part of her.
Year after year, she would hang an ornament for her on the Christmas tree and send prayers her way on birthdays. When the B.C. government opened their adoption filing system up in the early 1990s, she took action.
"I sent my affidavit requesting information in regards to the adoption, so I've been searching for quite a while," says Gerow.
Little did she know, her daughter was searching too.
"I walked around my entire life with a missing piece and I never understood it," said 39-year-old Tamela Dunn.
Dunn says she actively searched for her birth mother for 20 years but it was very difficult.

A message of hope

"Because of the fact of the old-style hospital, a lot of the records got deteriorated, there was a lot of information that was unreadable and so there was a lot that happened, and it was just an uphill battle," said Dunn.
It was an uphill administrative battle, as well as an emotional one. Dunn admits she had fears and anxiety about the idea of finally finding and meeting her birth mother.
"There's a lot of horror stories out there about people reuniting and sometimes it not working out so well," Dunn said.
This mother-daughter reunion was anything but a horror story.
Using a non-profit reconnection group out of B.C., Spirit of the Children, Dunn found Gerow this past March and called her up.
"I answered the phone and said, 'Hello?' And there was nothing and I went 'Hello?' And all I could hear was a gasp and for some odd reason I knew, and I said, 'You know, it's been 39 years since the last time I heard you breathe,'" said Gerow.
Almost two months later, after a 14-hour drive from Vancouver, Dunn and Gerow were hugging and crying on the front step of Gerow's northeast Calgary home.
The women say they want their story told as a message of hope to others still searching for their birth families.
As for Dunn, she says she has found that missing piece in her life and is happy to feel whole all over again.
"I was expecting a name, I wasn't expecting a mom."

Friday, May 8, 2015

Our Souls Cry: Proposed ICWA guidelines and hearings underway

By Trace
 
Last week I did write a statement and submitted it via email to the BIA.
I also read the Regulations for State Courts and Agencies in Indian Child Custody Proceedings and made a comment as an adoptee, as an advocate for other Native American adoptees and as an unofficial expert since I have authored three books (one as a memoir) about the Indian Adoption Projects.
 

Article on Yesterday’s Public Hearing on Proposed ICWA Regulations

Here, via NICWA.
“That’s been the plan from the beginning,” Bradley Goodsky told a mostly sympathetic audience at Mystic Lake Casino on Wednesday. “It’s like [child protection] has a crystal ball and we’re doomed to fail.”
Goodsky was one of the speakers to address federal administrators who are considering making it more difficult for social workers to put Indian children in foster care. The Bureau of Indian Affairs is proposing new rules that it says will strengthen the Indian Child Welfare Act, the 1978 law passed by Congress to stop the “often unwarranted” breakup of Indian families.
The act provides guidelines to child protection agencies and juvenile courts that set a high standard for placing Indian children into foster care, and it gives tribes a say in those cases. The proposed changes would raise that bar even higher, by requiring that child protection and the courts first determine if a child is Indian, and then only remove that child from a home where there is “present or impending risk of serious bodily injury or death.”  Kevin Washburn, the U.S. Interior Department assistant secretary who leads the BIA, is touring the country with other agency officials to hear from tribes and the public about the proposals.
“Guidelines are great,” Washburn told the group at the casino in Prior Lake. “We need things that are legally enforceable.”

But those voices were far outnumbered by speakers who told stories about the damage caused to Indian children by being separated from their culture.
“Native adoptive souls have been stolen,” said Gio Cerise, who was just 2 weeks old when adopted into a non-Indian family in 1965. “Our souls cry.”

Do you have your written comments in yet? They are due May 19.

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To Veronica Brown

Veronica, we adult adoptees are thinking of you today and every day. We will be here when you need us. Your journey in the adopted life has begun, nothing can revoke that now, the damage cannot be undone. Be courageous, you have what no adoptee before you has had; a strong group of adult adoptees who know your story, who are behind you and will always be so.

Telling our Stories

Telling our stories is a critical piece to healing the trauma of Indigenous adoption and so, as an adoptee, it is important to be both a teller and someone who “bears witness” to the stories of others. Although I am happy to be closing the door on telling mine, there are so many stories yet to be told.

~ Raven Sinclair

LAND OF GAZILLION ADOPTEES

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