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Kinship Adoption

Native American kinship adoption/ guardianship as a non native family

Hello all!
I’m here looking for guidance and support on a possible adoption/guardianship placement of part native child.

My neice is 15 and recently informed the family that she is expecting. She is in no way able to care for a child and has had drug problems for the past year. The most probable father is native tribal member who is currently in tribal foster care. He is also 15 and heavily involved in drugs and other crime.

My husband and I have been looking into adoption for years. We have one bio daughter. I wont go into it now, but it took ALOT to get her here. We really would love to expand our family however we can, but the cost of agency adoption has been holding us back.  My neice wants us to be in reserve in case she decides that she cant parent before or after the birth or if the state takes her baby away (this is VERY likely)

In addition to the usual issues steming from kinship adoption and drug use during pregnancy, ( meth and pot) the Native American component complicates things even more. I talked with both the probable fathers case worker and the I.C.W.A representative for his tribe. Both made a point of stating that their particular tribe almost never approves adoptions even when the placement is with family and that native family is prioritized. If we still provided a home for this child it would come in two forms
1) an agreed upon legal guardianship that the tribe could nullify if bio mom and or dad could prove they were in a better spot or if bio dads family pulled it together enough to ask for guardianship
2) a kinship foster care placement. This would only happen if the state took the child into care. Then placed it with me. The tribe would have slightly less say in termination of guardianship, but could still nix any adoption plan and make T.P.R much harder. They could also work to prioritize a native foster home.

I am so torn as to what to do. I want to provide a safe, stable, loving, PERMANENT home for this child, but even if the bio parents would like to agree to an adoption plan I’m afraid it will be an up hill battle to keep the child with me long term. I’ve talked to two lawyer’s and neather were very optimistic about possible outcomes.

My questions to you wonderfull people here are;

1) have any of you adopted or fostered a native child that met blood quantum and how did it work out? ( yes i know each tribe treats adoption differently, just looking for others in a somewhat similar boat)

2) for the people who have done kinship adoption/ fostering/ guardianship would you still do it if you knew T.P.R and/or adoption would never be granted no matter how much the bio parents F’ed up or how long the child was in your home?

3) for the people who adopted drug exposed children, what have been the long term effects of meth use through at least the first trimester?

I want to do the right thing for this child and for my family. There is another Non native aunt and another uncle who could both also be possible foster homes for this child, so its not all on me, but i want to be prepared for what comes down the pipe and make the most informed decisions I can.

Thank you all very much


I think as a first step you need to find out who the dad is and what he wants as well. He may have Native American relatives who are willing to step up.

Posted by Regina on Feb 16, 2018 at 3:27pm

The probable father is currently in tribal foster care and has been most his life. He has no close family that can pass a tribal homestudy, although more distant relitives could come forward for an infant going into care. He seems open to a guardianship agreement or possible adoption if we can get the tribe to sign off.

The other possible father is more of a longshot and Im really hoping its NOT him although it would make the legal aspects of adoption much easier

Posted by AriaEli on Feb 16, 2018 at 5:04pm

Me and my husband successfully adopted a registered native child. Bm was my husbands cousin and bd was a native drug addict. This particular tribe did allow for the adoption as they have a very large amount of children on their reservation in out of home care (they have a huge drug problem and not enough sober natives to care for the children that need it.) It was a very long stressful legal process with the tribe acting as a 3rd parent but ultimately it did work out for us.

Posted by Jlarson4459 on Feb 26, 2018 at 4:12am

I’m glad everything worked out for you. How long did the adoption process take ? I’m not looking forward to going through the tribal courts, but I know that I can’t avoid it if this all goes forward.

Posted by AriaEli on Feb 26, 2018 at 7:23pm

I would look up the law concerning parental rights. If your neice signs the child over to you and states she does not know who the father is. It will simplify things greatly. And she does not know really. I would find out if any native council can trump a mother’s choices. Native or not. Let’s say your neice keeps her child. The native council could not tell her where her child must live, reservation or city, or what school the child must attend. So if the mom signs the baby over to you. I would find out if this blocks the native council from determining anything. After all that child has another culture in his veins also. If you do receive this child, I would hope you do everything you can to educate and make the baby aware of his native side , if this is his culture. My gg grandmother was native. We don’t know anything about our heritage. Good luck

Posted by freckle face mama on Apr 25, 2018 at 3:00am

Thank you for your reply.

Unfortunately tribal code trumps parental choice as far as allowing full adoption. My husband and I are working towards developing a possible guardianship plan with the tribe, however it looks very unlikely we will ever be able to legally make this child ours. As it turns out the tribal chairman has known my husband since my hubby was a young child so we feel as if we do have some support in our case, but it’s still going to be a very long drawn out process to be approved as permanent guardians. As minors the tribe doesnt even alow the kids to make a guardianship plan without tribal approval. If my neice omits dads name from the birth certificate and makes an adoption plan the tribe has the right to nullify the adoption at any point (even years later) if it is proven that he is the biological father, hence we feel it is in our best interests to have full disclosure with the tribe.

  As for supporting cultural identity I’m currently being mentored by a woman on how to make regalia blankets and the iconography used in them. I’m hoping to make dad a blanket if he agrees to and completes drug treatment. I may be getting ahead of myself on that front but I want him to succeed and its teaching me quite a bit about babys heritage. Right now I’m working on a design for a native foster child to celebrate their graduation from high school.

I’ve wanted to and been preparing to adopt for a longtime, but I honestly never expected a possible placement to take this form. Between being FAR more intimately involved with the expecting parents than I ever thought I would be and the different legalities with native placements its all really throwing me for a loop.

Posted by AriaEli on Apr 25, 2018 at 5:38am

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