Native American Adoptions and Fostering

Excerpts from some insightful blog comments by an anonymous Native American foster mom in response to some questions I asked on how we might do Native American adoption and fostering better in the future.  Thank you commenter for sharing and helping us understand how to support our kids better - I want to hear more....

What would you like to say to foster families who are currently fostering, adopting or have adopted a Native child?

All tribes are very different culturally, so please reach out to members and especially tribal elders to learn about the child's tribe and clan. You might be able to provide that child with a starting point when he or she is older to learn about where they come from.  Find the Elders, they are the key resource for our youth. Every tribe is so different though, its hard for me to tell you how to find them.

Wherever you live in this country, there was a tribe walking where you live today. 

Try instead to find cultural events, but don't stop there - attending isn't enough because these things are mostly put on for white people. Grab an elder and tell them who you are and who your child is, and ask for their guidance and wisdom in raising this child. 

Most native elders are waiting for an opportunity to pass on their wisdom and are eager to help. Do not pretend we don't exist because that's how most of us are treated through our lives, like some sort of mythical creature from times past. Old knowledge is greatly valued and just by asking an elder you are showing respect in a way most of society doesn't. If you commit to this kind of relationship, you'll be better able to judge the distinction between the hoaky wannabes and the true culture.

 As in, don't hang a dream catcher in the kid's room and call it a day. Or bring him to some ceremony that someone is charging money for. 

It has to be about the child's tribe (again, we're each so different) and nurturing a real relationship with members of the tribe. Without a real relationship, nobody is going to take the time to teach you the language or traditions or cook the meals your child's ancestors made. 

You can't google a tribe and send an email and expect to be given a list of all the tribal values and history and culture. Imagine if someone emailed you and asked you: "Hey, I'm raising a white child and I'd like to learn more about their culture. Can you tell me some of your history and culture?" You wouldn't know where to begin, right? It's disregarded as an ignorant question because don't people recognize that not all white people come from the same origins or have the same traditions? And where to begin with history? You couldn't possibly sum it up in one book or one conversation. So a lot of the response you're going to get will depend on how you ask your questions, and to whom.

How could there be more recruiting of Native families to foster and adopt? How can we encourage agencies and counties to encourage qualified native families? Are there current stumbling blocks to native families becoming foster/adoptive families that I don't know about?

My tribe's ICWA department sent out postcards to members asking for foster homes. I called for more information and didn't get any. Then I got a call 6 months later asking if I would take a baby boy that night. I said yes. I had no training, no support from the tribe, the social workers checked my home and called it a child-specific placement. I have been through a lot of struggles with this process, but the bottom line is that the ICWA workers are not trained, social workers.  When I demanded more support I was shunned from their office. So now I just deal with the state directly and don't even bother with them. I do not think I will foster again because of this experience. So as far as stumbling blocks for us? Tribal Politics.