MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

April 17, 2013

Adoptive parents seek change to Indian Child Welfare Act

Petition to amend law given to Rep. Mullin

— A petition to amend the Indian Child Welfare Act was delivered to the Muskogee office of Congressman Markwayne Mullin on Tuesday.

Advocate Dawn Ferrill of Tulsa brought the petition, along with several adoptive parents of Native American children.

Ferrill said she had two Native American foster children taken from her home because of their heritage last year.

“It was very traumatic for them. They already experienced trauma being taken from their family,” Ferrill said about her two foster children, who were 1/32 Native American. “And it was heartbreaking to see them go through it all a second time.”

Ferrill said the petition asks that the “best interests of the child” be considered before removing a Native American child from a non-Native foster or adoptive home in the future.

Cherokee Nation Assistant Attorney General Chrissi Nimmo said in a written statement Tuesday, “Cherokee Nation would not support these amendments to ICWA.”

“A child’s best interest is already considered when determining whether to remove the child from a non-Indian placement,” Nimmo said in the statement. “There is also a statutory exception that allows the placement preferences to be avoided upon a showing of good cause, therefore no amendment is needed.”

The Indian Child Welfare Act was enacted in 1978. The law gives tribes and relatives a say in decisions affecting a child.

Ferrill said since ICWA was enacted, it’s evolved into being applied to children who “are part Indian, have no cultural ties to an Indian tribe, but they still are required by ICWA to be placed in an Indian foster or adoptive home.”

Nimmo said a child’s degree of blood quantum is beside the point.

“Just as someone can’t be 1 percent United States citizen, one can’t be 1 percent Cherokee citizen,” she said in the statement.

Ferrill said she hopes to convince Mullin, R-Okla., or any other legislator, to sponsor legislation to amend ICWA.

“I would love to have him introduce legislation, but the main thing is I would love to meet with him. I’ve been trying to meet with him since December,” Ferrill said.

Mullin, was not at his Muskogee office Tuesday, but in Washington. His District Press Secretary Angie Gallant said, “We’ll take the time to look this over, but we don’t have a comment today.”

Associated Press contributed to this story.

Reach Wendy Burton at (918) 684-2926 or wburton@muskogeephoenix.com.

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