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The unique challenges of Native American child adoptions

Adopting a child is a noble action. There are plenty of children who are in state systems who need a loving family. Adoption may be their only option in many cases. However, if the child is Native American, there will be special considerations and obligations for the adopting family. Families considering such an adoption must be aware of the law governing it.

According to the National Indian Child Welfare Association, a law was enacted in 1978 to help prevent Native American children from losing their cultural identity. Because of large numbers of Native children being put into state care, many of them were being taken away from their tribes and heritage. The Indian Child Welfare Act serves as the law to govern the adoption of Native children.

Adopt US Kids notes the ICWA established standards that must be followed in an adoption case to ensure the tribe maintains legal authority over the process. It first and foremost allows for placement with family or tribe members before allowing those outside to adopt a child. Other Native Americans, even if not from the same tribe, are also given preference as adoptive families before non-Native American families.

If a child is adopted by someone not of Native American heritage, they are responsible for ensuring the child maintains a connection to his or her tribe. Developing connections with the child's birth family is encouraged whenever possible. In addition, the child should be encouraged to engage in cultural activities and remain an active member of the tribe. This takes work on everyone's part, but a caseworker is often assigned under the ICWA to assist. This information is only intended to educate and should not be interpreted as legal advice.

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