What is the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), and Why is it Important?
Unplanned pregnancies can be scary, and figuring out how to care for your baby may seem like a daunting task. Being an Indian mother adds an additional layer of fear to the process since preserving Native culture and heritage may seem impossible through the means of adoption. Fortunately, according to the United States Department of the Interior, a Federal Law known as the Indian Child Welfare Act was passed in 1902 in order to protect children who are born to a mother who is a member of an Indian Tribe. This law, which is fully recognized by Adoptions Choices of Missouri, is in place to keep these children within their unique tribal community and seeks to place adopted children in homes that will allow them to grow up in the culture they were born into.
If I’m an Indian Mother, What Would This Mean For Me if I Chose the Route of Adoption?
The ICWA will ensure that your baby is placed into a home within your tribe, so you don’t need to worry about your child growing up in a setting that doesn’t reflect their heritage. This law is in place to prevent the removal of Indian babies from their familial ties to their Tribe, which was observed in decades past. Making the decision to give your baby to an adoptive family is difficult enough without the added stress of possible tribal abandonment. Thanks to this law, the added layer of fear that you may face during your pregnancy can be lifted, and as you consider adoption, you can make a decision without the concern of your child’s separation from their heritage.
Are There Any Additional Steps in the Adoption Process that I Will Have to Take?
Most of your adoption process will align with our typical adoption process at Adoptions Choices of Missouri. Your first step will be to contact us. We will do our best to answer all your questions and provide you with any assistance you may want in making your adoption decision. If you choose to go the route of adoption, your next step will be to schedule an initial meeting with a Birth Parent Counselor. Following this, you will be provided with the appropriate paperwork, and you will be asked to provide proof of pregnancy.
Afterward, you will be asked to find a doctor, and the matching process will commence. You will then be given different profiles of families for your baby to be adopted by. Under the ICWA, you will get to choose from families within your tribe that will raise up your child in the culture it belongs to. 48 hours after your baby’s birth, it will leave the hospital with the adoptive family, and you will give your final word of consent. We will provide emotional support and counseling services for you post-birth as we know this process can be difficult to process. We will also work with you to provide you with any financial support or housing needs throughout the process. In order for your child to remain under the protection of the ICWA, you will need to work with the Missouri State Court to ensure that your final adoption decree is submitted to the Bureau of Indian Affairs within 30 days of the adoption. In this decree, you must include:
- Name and birth date of the child
- Tribal affiliation
- Names and addresses of biological and adoptive parents
- Name and contact information for an adoption agency in Missouri
- Signed affidavit
If My Baby is Kept Within My Tribe, Will I Still Be Able to Be Present in Their Life?
There is no one set method for adoption. You have the option of choosing open adoption, which would allow you to share names, phone numbers, and contact information with the adoptive family. You can even meet in person with your baby’s adoptive family and keep in contact with them before and after the birth of your child. Through open adoption, you could possibly have in-person visits with your child if you come to an agreement to do so with your child’s adoptive family. It’s important to remember that just because you choose to place your baby in an adoptive family, you don’t have to be removed from their life. If you are an Indian mother, the ICWA allows you to remain a member of your child’s tribal family, which may eliminate some concern over losing touch with your child post-adoption.
So, How Should the Indian Child Welfare Act Guide my Decision-Making Process as an Indian Mother?
We don’t want to pressure you into making any decisions regarding the life of your baby. However, if you are a member of a Native Tribe, understanding the implications of the ICWA may bring about a sense of relief over any concerns you may have regarding your child’s separation from their tribal culture. At Adoptions Choices of Missouri, we are eager to assist you in the adoption process and will act in alignment with the ICWA when it comes to placing your baby in a new home. You shouldn’t have to deal with the possibility of your child being sent to a home that doesn’t reflect your heritage, and thanks to the ICWA, you don’t have to. For any additional questions or concerns you may have regarding your unplanned pregnancy, contact us at Adoption Choices of Missouri. We will be available to assist you 24/7 — all you need to do is reach out.
Meet the author: Kyla’s life has been filled with adventure and transition – both good and difficult. She loves to take on challenges head-on and lead an organized and balanced life. She’s passionate about many different areas and loves how writing gives her the flexibility to engage in research of almost every field of study imaginable. She grew up very involved in theater and music and continues to use her free time to play the piano and sing. However, she is also very interested in how the natural world works and takes any chance she has to spend the day away from crowds, enveloped in the seclusion of nature. Growing up in the Philippines, she’s had some unique experiences that have shaped her worldview and given her a deeper understanding and appreciation for different cultures. She gets excited about research papers, completed to-do lists, and her morning coffee.