MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Opinion

April 23, 2013

Court should favor what’s best for child

The United States Supreme Court should keep the best interest of the child at the forefront of any decision involving the adoption of a Native American child.

A Native child was adopted by non-Natives with the approval of the biological mother.

The biological father, a Cherokee, challenged the adoption by citing the Indian Child Welfare Act.

The adoptive parents, who raised the child for 27 months, have asked the Supreme Court to overturn lower courts’ decisions to place the child with the father.

The intent of Congress under ICWA was to “protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families.”

It accomplishes this by providing the tribe or a parent who is a member of the tribe an opportunity to be involved in decisions that affect services for, or custody of, the child.

There was a time in this country that, in the interest of assimilating Native Americans into United States culture, too many Native children were systematically taken from their homes and placed where their culture was discouraged.

Native Americans were sometimes painfully discouraged from speaking in their tribal language. It had the effect of cultural genocide.

That is why the ICWA was necessary in the 1970s.

However, the particulars of this case are not as important as the welfare of the child.

That’s because the adoption of a child should be about love.

It should be about who will best care for the child’s emotional and physical upbringing.

Biological parents — if they are fit parents — should be given preference in any adoption case.

That’s only if the biological parents are fit to raise the child.

The degree of Native blood in a person does not ensure he or she embraces the Native culture.

A loving parent who adopts a Native American child is going to want that child to know about his or her heritage. A loving parent, who is not Native American, will learn about the culture to help the child.

A bad parent of any degree of Native American blood will not care about the child or the culture.

Children deserve to be placed in a loving home.

If all things are considered equal between contestants battling over a child, the biological parent should have more rights.

If not, the only question that should be answered is what’s in the best interest of the child.

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