Adoption: A Complex Legal Process That Should Be Handled By Professionals

Occasionally my sister will text me baffled or outraged by something adoption related. Sometimes it’s something I’m so desensitized from I shrug and reply something to the effect of, “yep that happens”. Sometimes I also become outraged. And sometimes I decide to get up on my soapbox.

Honestly, I’m a little puzzled by the details of this adoption case out of Missouri. The article is vague about some details, which requires the reader to infer key aspects. Because three families are said to be in the running for custody of one child I will refer to the players as the

  1. The Chosen parents: the couple chosen by the biological parents to adopt the baby.
  2. The Kinship care parents: a family that I believe is friends of the Chosen parents. (The article never outright states that this family is one of the three wanting to retain custody, but it also doesn’t provide any information that implies a different family is involved)
  3. The Grandparents: the paternal biological grandparents of the baby (the baby’s biological father’s parents)

Apparently shortly after the baby’s birth the chosen parents took her from her birth state of Missouri to their home state of Kansas. This unintentionally violated the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC). Potential adoptive parents must get permission to transport a pre-adoptive child across state lines. Because of this violation the baby was placed in kinship care and has resided with the kinship care parents since 2013. The baby’s toddler’s biological paternal grandparents are also seeking custody, while grandparents don’t ordinarily have the power to thwart an adoption an additional aspect of this case may give them standing. Turns out the child is an Indian Child.

Because of our country’s appalling treatment of Native/First Nation peoples the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) was passed in the 1970s. If you remember the Baby Veronica case you should remember it’s background, but I will summarize here. The removal of Native children from their families and their tribes and their adoption by white families was used as a form of cultural genocide. ICWA was put in place as a measure to prevent this practice. It states that federally recognized tribes have jurisdiction over their children. They get to define who is or is not an Indian Child and such a child cannot be adopted without consulting with the tribe first. Generally when the biological parents of an Indian Child cannot parent that child the priorities become:

  1. Remain with biological family
  2. Be placed with a tribal family
  3. Be placed with a Native family of another tribe
  4. Be placed outside the tribe (sometimes with a written plan for ensuring the child remain connected to the culture of their birth)

I’m not sure if the grandparents seeking custody are Native or not and I’m unsure if non-Native biological family takes preference over a tribal family, but I believe it does. This would give the grandparents first refusal over both the chosen parents and the kinship-care parents. Of course my understanding is that the tribe can also agree to the placement the biological parents chose.

The question is why is this coming out two years later? Why weren’t ICWA and ICPC considered at the time of the baby’s birth or before? My assumption is because there were no adoption competent professionals involved. Many potential adoptive parents are meeting expectant parents considering adoption via the internet or other independent means. While there are states that allow these adoptions independent of agencies it clearly opens the door to all sorts of problems. Problems that leave children in the balance and can take years to resolve.

Adoption is a legal process and it’s complicated, lets leave it to the professionals, shall we?

It should also be noted that the chosen parents are a same sex couple, as this is taking place in the bible belt it is possible that is playing a role in their difficulties gaining custody.

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