February 01, 2013

If there is ever a contest for the law with the most grossly misleading title, the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 should be a prime candidate, because the last thing this Act protects is the welfare of Indian children.

The theory behind the Indian Child Welfare Act is that an American Indian child should be raised in an American Indian culture.

Based on that theory, a newborn baby of American Indian ancestry, who was adopted immediately after birth by a white couple, was at 27 months of age taken away from the only parents she has ever known and given to her father.

Apparently the tribe has rights under the Indian Child Welfare Act. If this child were of any other race, a court would be free to decide the case on the basis of whatever was in the best interests of the child. Instead, the child is treated almost as property, contrary to the 13th Amendment that outlawed slavery.

Fortunately, the legal issues growing out of this case are now before the Supreme Court of the United States. We can only hope that the justices will use their wisdom, instead of their cleverness, to decide this case.

The wisdom of Solomon provided a good example many centuries ago, in a case where two women each claimed to be the mother of a child and each demanded custody. Since he did not know who was the real mother, King Solomon said that he would cut the child in half and give each mother her half.


When one of the women dropped her claim, in order to spare the child's life, he knew that she was the real mother. Anyone who would ruin a helpless child's life, in order to assert their own legal prerogatives, or to protect the tribe's turf, raises very serious questions about what kind of parent they are.

The question is not which home is better, but whether the child will ever feel secure in any home again, after the shock of being forcibly taken away.

The welfare of a flesh-and-blood human being should trump theories about cultures -- especially in the case of a two-year-old child, who has been torn away from the only parents she has ever known, and treated as a pawn in a legalistic game.


This little girl is just the latest in a long line of Indian children who have been ripped out of the only family they have ever known and given to someone who is a stranger to them, often living on an Indian reservation that is foreign to them. This has happened even to children who have spent a decade or more with a family to which they have become attached and is attached to them.

There have already been too many scenes of weeping and frightened children, crying out in vain for the only mother and father they have known, as they are forcibly dragged away.

Whatever the merits or demerits of various theories about culture, they are still just theories. But too many people put their pet theories ahead of flesh-and-blood human beings.

One of the rationales for the Indian Child Welfare Act is that, in the past, Indian children were wantonly wrested from their Indian parents and sent off to be raised by non-Indians. But nothing we can do today can undo the wrongs of the past -- especially not by creating the same wrongs again, in reverse.


While those who are most victimized by the so-called Indian Child Welfare Act are the children ripped out of their homes to satisfy some theory, they are not the only victims.

Indian children without biological parents to take care of them can be needlessly left in institutional care, when there are not enough Indian foster parents or adoptive parents to take them into their homes.

The Alice in Wonderland legal situation can hardly encourage non-Indian families to take care of these children, when that can so easily lead to heartbreak for both the children themselves and the surrogate parents who have become attached to them.

The New York Times reports that fewer than 2 percent of the children in Minnesota are Indian, but 15 percent of the children in that state's foster care system are Indian. In Montana, 9 percent of the children are Indian, but Indian children make up 37 percent of the children in foster care.

What a price to pay for a theory!

Written by Thomas Sowell Source

Responses to "American Indian children deserve better"

  1. Anonymous says:

    American Indian children should have laws that protect THEM!. It would be wonderful if every child could be placed with their own ethnic background in theory...but we all know this is not possible. Loving parents come in many shades and beliefs. Many many years ago we tried to either adopt or foster an American Indian child....my grandmother is full Eastern Band Cherokee but I am not enrolled in any Native Rolls....we had 3 natural born children but wanted to try to help a youngster in bad circumstances on a reservation and we were told that was not possible that they want them to only be placed in Native homes; while I respect this I donot believe it is truly always possible to find the proper home due to the fact that Native Americans have great difficulties trying to have normal living styles due to no job opportunities nor the proper access to education and health care as well....please allow thoroughly respectable, honest, loving folks adopt and love the Native children if they are in need. Do what is best for the children.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The treatment of Native People, (Children), is only more ongoing acts of Genocide.
    Genocide: international Law=The extermination of a people by killings, interbreeding, or denying that they exist.
    President Jackson Indian Removal Order and the ONGOING Indian wars are acts of GENOCIDE. I am a Wassu with native friends, and I am proud to know these people, they are precious to me.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Rooted firmly in native culture i have declined to maintain any sort of job. I simply have no interest. When the last resource is gone so shall I. I went to school once as a 4.0 gpa student I finished my degree. I have the understanding of GOV. things but not the empathy for them. I neither consume alcohal or smoke. The standards of ICW have carefully followed the standards of states as they were made by lawyers. When these standards where set by human beings parent and child both benifited from counsel they could respect and understand. My Grandfather an escaped native adoptee would agree. The law should reflect the wisdom of human beings not other laws.

  4. As a father of 3, i see no issue placing the child with the father. I could see the uproar, if the child was sent to another family, but his is not the case. White or not, that is not the issue. The right of the biological father to raise his child, should be paramount. Why no one has supported the father, I have no idea. So he is Indian, Native American, whatever you wish to label him, he is still a father, first and foremost.

  5. Anonymous says:

    As a teacher, mother, natural born American citizen, but considered a minority I am pleased that these children are being protected from those who may use them as a novelty because they have something to prove. There may be some people who think they are being helpful and have the right heart, but the Soul of a child carries the imprints of their culture. Children often experience an identity crisis when adopted outside of their culture. No matter the intention, our genetic imprints carry a perspective and sense of who we are and where we came from. When a child is removed from natural group they lose their own sense of who they are. They learn to live in a foreign culture at the expense of a sense of not belonging and feeling different. Worst of all, the child may not realize they are different, genetically and energetically; while carrying the imprints of his/her ancestors. Even when we are born from a foreign culture but are technically Americans, Chinese, Indian, etc. we carry the imprints of our native culture and do not move or perceive the world the same as those natural to their culture...etc etc. Ideally children should be adopted by their own culture...not become a novelty by those who have something to prove..

  6. Anonymous says:

    Wow, I wonder if that means that I still carry the German culture from my ancestors who immigrated here before the Revolutionary War? I guess the Cherokee friends we had/have are what because they did not live on a reservation but out in the 'white' mans world. For some reason my brother-in-law & his family considered themselves American first & Cherokee after, just like I consider my ancestors came from Germany.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I am of native American decent being Choctaw on my Mothers side and Osage on my Father's. I was raised to respect all life man or animal. Culture is what we make it. I go to Pow-wows, eat all kinds of ethnic foods and have a large and divers family of friends. I have adoipted a child from the Phillipines, one from the Blackfoot Tribe, another who is Italian and French decent and I raised them all to be loving, kind, and non-judgemental of their fellow man. They have gone to colleges and are in all respects, well adjusted and productive human beings. Now, if a child is in need of a home and all the trappings that includes, doesn't that trump heritage? Shouldn't that child have the rights to a home with someone who will love them and provide for them? A Fathers rights are only viable if that father can provide for the child. If said child was placed with a family, where was the father when it was born, and why the wait to lay claim??

  8. Amberlee says:

    I agree with your comment Anonymous @ 745 PM. I grew up in an unstable situation back forth between my father & aunt/uncle. At a young age, old enough to understand, my brother & I were taken away from the only mother I felt I had, our step-mother. We were also taken away from our biological mother at the age of three. I have grown up feeling disconnected from others & not trusting to get close with people. So I can relate, that a child shouldn't be torn from a loving home because it confuses them greatly & troubles their hearts.

  9. Anonymous says:

    You folks should read the act, it says the tribe MAY intervene on behalf of the child.NOT required to.Many time the tribe does not choose to participate in a case because of many reasons, to far away, no sys in the tribe to respond, and money. The children need to know who they are especially if they look a little different in the white world. Other kids are real cruel, if you look or act different then them.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Very true. I was taken from my ppl and always felt a sense of disconnect from the others around me. I constantly had to prove where I was from because of the household i lived in. It made me feel alone and misunderstood until I made the conscious decision as an adult to return to my ppl. It was then that I felt at home and comfortable. No longer a strange novelty in my community, but a member of my community.

  11. jennifer boursaw says:

    wish my lawyer had used this law to help push a local judge to honor the states appeal judges decision to re-unite my native daughter back to me... the states appeal judges ruled on my behalf...even without this law...said the local court had made an erroneous judgment taking her from me in the first place at 2 1/2 years old...the local court then threatened to take away my new-born as well if i didnt sign the adoption papers and sign off my indian rights...i was too scared and nobody was willing to explain my rights to me...so i signed the papers, took my youngest to family to protect her then went immediately filed the paper stating i was coerced...in the end they kept her anyway and i was unable to get that same lawyer to help me...that was almost 12 years ago now and my eldest is now about to be 17, talks to me regularily on facebook (her new mom unaware but dad ok) and i count myself lucky to have that...but my heart still screams in pain at the unfairness of it all...and the wounds within me are deep...time was stolen from us and she knows only the lies that her white family has spoken of me... :(

  12. Anonymous says:

    the question you must consider...
    if not adopted, having to remain in the place/people you had been left, Into what kind of person might you have developed? The gift of a stable, loving home may just have afforded you the 'luxury' of ONLY having to cope with an 'identity crisis'.

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