Opinion

Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Anti-ICWA groups suppress tribal identity





Dina Gilio-Whitaker discusses her experience with adoption, the adoption industry and the Indian Child Welfare Act:
The Baby Veronica adoption case hits very close to home for me on several levels ranging from personal to political, as a person of American Indian heritage and as an indigenous studies scholar, but also as a former adoption professional. I’ve worked as an assistant adoption facilitator and lived in a residential program for birth mothers where I served as their advocate and advisor. I have siblings I’ve never met because of their adoption placements before I was born, pre-Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and in the era of closed adoptions. One of them I believe was taken forcibly. This means they were Indian kids who more than likely were raised without any knowledge of their culture and possibly without even knowing they were Indian. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to find them, in large part because of the sealing of their adoption records. I am no stranger to the agony adoption exacts on the families involved, even decades into the future. My family’s experience is in a very real way a perfect example of why the ICWA was passed in 1978.

I know from my experience as an adoption professional that no one enters into adoption lightly. No decision a woman can make in her life is more excruciating than to give a baby up for adoption, no matter the reason. If there is a birthfather in the picture, the specter of adoption can be profoundly confusing and equally painful. Adoptive couples like the Capobiancos usually struggle for years with infertility, leading them finally to adoption agencies in their desperation to have a child. They are typically people far more economically privileged than birthparents since they can afford to spend the tens of thousands of dollars it costs to adopt while birthparents typically do adoption placements because they are ill-equipped to raise a child, financially and otherwise.

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Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Baby Veronica: U.S. Doesn't Respect or Understand Native Culture (Indian Country Today 8/13)