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Birth Parents Guide to the Indian Child Welfare Act

By Rockebah Charles-Stewart 

Putting a child up for adoption raises multiple concerns. If you are a member of a recognized Indian tribe, there may be further factors to consider. You may worry about your child being raised in a home that values tribal traditions. Rest assured, the Indian Child Welfare Act has safeguards to ensure your child is raised in an environment that preserves their Indian heritage.  

Adoption Choices of Oklahoma can help you through the sensitivity of your Oklahoma City adoption. We are a privately owned Tulsa adoption agency that prioritizes the needs of birth parents and the child. No matter the circumstances, we are here to support you during your unplanned pregnancy.

The Indian Child Welfare Act

The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978 is a federal law. It deals with the relocation and placement of American Indian and Alaska Native children. The law was created because of the higher rate Indian children were being taken from their homes and communities. This is in comparison to non-Indian children and youth. Ultimately, ICWA is a response to the targeting of Indian families through removal practices. Today, it plays a crucial role in safeguarding the rights and culture of Indian children and families.

The Purpose of the Indian Child Welfare Act

The Indian Child Welfare Act is designed to:
  • Ensure the safety and security of Indian children in the child protection system.
  • Protect and maintain tribal cultural heritage.
  • Ensure the authority of tribal jurisdiction.

Knowing How the Indian Child Welfare Act Works

The Indian Child Welfare Act enacts its purpose by:
  • Regulating various aspects of state child welfare proceedings.
  • Setting federal guidelines for the removal of Indian children from their families.
  • Outlining the specific roles of tribal and state governments in child welfare cases.
  • Indicating a preference for placing a child with adoptive parents.
  • Safeguarding parents regarding parental rights termination.

Is Your Child Considered an “Indian Child”?

Your child is considered an “Indian child” if they are under 18 and unmarried. They must also fall under one of these options:

  • A member of an Indian Tribe that is recognized by the federal government.
  • A biological child of members of a recognized tribe since membership is federally accepted in an Indian Tribe through parentage.

Provisions for Children After Birth and Before an Oklahoma Adoption

The goal of ICWA is to provide Indian children waiting for child adoption with a comfortable, family-like home. Therefore, priority is given to persons who meet the following criteria:

  • Persons from the child’s extended family.
  • A foster home that has been authorized and approved by the tribe.
  • Indian foster homes can be approved by non-Indian licensing authorities.
  • An institution with a suitable program for the child. This institution needs to be tribal-approved or operated by an Indian organization.

Child Placement in an Indian Oklahoma Child Adoption

The Indian Child Welfare Act specifies a preference for child adoption. Preferences are extended to:

  • Extended family members of the child.
  • Members of the child’s Indian tribe.
  • Other families from Indian tribes.

Arranging Adoptive Parents Before Birth

As a birth mother, you can arrange the placement of your Indian child before birth. However, you cannot take any legal action until at least ten days after the child is born. Only then you can officially give consent for the child’s placement.

Adoption Finalization

You can withdraw your consent for the adoptive placement of an Indian child for any reason. This can be done only if the proceedings are voluntary and at any point before the entry of a final termination or adoption decree. In this instance, your child will be returned to you.

Your Child’s Rights to Tribal Benefits After and During Adoption

For your child to receive tribal benefits, they must be recognized as a member of an Indian tribe. The usual method involves formal enrollment and membership falls under the exclusive authority of the tribes.

If an Indian child is adopted, their enrollment in a tribe is determined by the tribe’s membership and enrollment criteria. Although the membership process can be difficult if you choose to remain anonymous, Adoption Choices of Oklahoma is here to help. We will deal with the altered birth certificates and sealed court records to relieve your burdens.

Why Choose Adoption Choices of Oklahoma?

We at Adoption Choices of Oklahoma understand that the adoption process can be difficult, especially if you want your child to remain in an Indian-cultured home. This is why we seek to make the process as stress-free as we can. We will deal with the documentation and formalities, so you can focus on the health of you and your child. 

If you are thinking about adoption, even with the complication of Indian tribal placement, consider Adoption Choices of Oklahoma. Make us part of your adoption plan. We will deal with the technicalities so you don’t have to.

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