New CA Law May Affect
of Some Native-American Children
A recent Native America Calling radio program, on KUNM-FM, focused on a new
law in California that may result in changes in Native-American adoptions.
It deals with what they are calling Customary Adoption Practices.
The new law states that, in some circumstances,
a Native American childs birth parents will not be required to sign
away all parental rights, as is the current policy in most adoptions in the
U.S., including open or semi-open adoptions.
This law applies only to Native-American children
at this time, and only in California. It is the intent of the law to further
strengthen the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), a federal law that already
exists, which states that a Native child who is available for adoption because
the birth parents are unable to properly care for the child will be adopted
within the childs Native community, preferably extended family, if
at all possible; if that is not possible, the next alternative is within
the childs clan or tribe; if that is not possible, the next alternative
is within another Native group or tribe; only if that is not possible is
the child allowed to be adopted by non-Native parents.
In some regions, the ICWA has been followed
closely and implemented carefully, while in other parts of the country, the
foster/adoption system has not been so faithful in sticking to the ICWA
guidelines, with the result that Native children still lose their family
and tribal connections, language, and culture.
The intent of the new California law is to
help birth families maintain those connections through continued contact
wherever possible and advisable, with an emphasis on extended family raising
the child if at all possible. The birth parents would not be financially
responsible for the child, but would be able to have contact and not be estranged
from the child.
In many states, open adoption is not legally
enforceable, although it is in New Mexico, for both adoptive parents and
birth parents. This new law does not mean that a birth parent can come in
at any time and take the child back without any oversight or legal procedures.
It does mean they are not cut off with no recourse, no information and no
further contact with their child, as has often been the case in adoptions
through the foster system.
An audiotape of this radio program will be
available through the O.I. Lending Library. There was a considerable amount
of call-in comments from adult adoptees, adoptive parents, birth parents,
and others, including interviews with the legislators who sponsored the
Native American Calling is broadcast
Monday-Friday at 11:00 a.m. on KUNM (89.9 FM), and frequently features
adoption-related Native-American topics. The broadcast is also streamed live
on KUNMs website,
Excerpted from the January 2010
edition of the Operation Identitiy Newsletter
© 2010 Operation Identity