Ooh, Yeah. Life is Good.
We have been working with our birth mom to try and figure out what to do, as you can well imagine. We have now determined that for all intents and purposes, the guardian ad litem is on our side in the dispute with the tribe. So is the county social worker. So is the judge. So is the birth mom's lawyer. So is everybody else that is involved in any way, except for the tribe.
Further, in the first meeting, I discovered today that the representative of the tribe introduced herself to the court as the "tribal prosecutor". This week she was "the ICWA worker". Our birth mom calls her "the witch with a B". Heh. She's a feisty one. She described with glee how the judge kept cutting her off, telling her that her points were irrelevant, and so forth. I had to smile.
Anyway, with the tacit approval of all but the tribe, who don't need to know, we are going to proceed to parent this child on at least a part-time basis until we can find a lawyer that will take the case pro bono or at least for an amount that we can talk ourselves into paying. $30000 isn't an amount we can justify, so we may be looking for a little while. Justice can be had in America, but it ain't cheap, especially when you're going up against a protected minority. Even if you are one yourself, as our birth mom is.
So tonight we drove to pick up our new little poop dispenser. Her skin has gotten a bit darker since we last saw her, and she may have gained just a bit of weight, but she's still very small (5 pounds minus about 1/2 ounce at birth...may have gained a half-pound or something so far). We just got home.
It is not my habit to use real names for anybody but myself on this blog. In most cases that is to protect the privacy of any and all involved. I'm going to make an exception. We named this beautiful child Amanda. I chose it. As I have disclosed in the past, my love for the 80s borders on the maniacal. While it is not technically an 80s song (having been released in the late 70s as I recall), "Amanda" by Boston is the culprit that Amanda can blame if she ends up not liking her name. After all, the birth mom's sister-in-law complained that she had named this child using "a white girl's name".
Sigh. Everybody's a critic. Why do people concern themselves with what other people name their children? You would think people could content themselves with learning a person's name, using it when they address them, and then shutting the hell up about it already, unless it's a good friend and you need to tease them.
Anyway, she can be Amanda, Mandy, AJ (middle initial is J), Amy or whatever...we'll decide that as we see what type of person she turns into. But she'll always remind me of the Boston song:
Babe, tomorrows so far away
Theres something I just have to say
I dont think I can hide what Im feelin inside
Another day, knowin I love you
And i, Im getting too close again
I dont want to see it end
If I tell you tonight will you turn out the light
And walk away knowin I love you?
Im gonna take you by surprise and make you realize,
Im gonna tell you right away, I cant wait another day,
Im gonna say it like a man and make you understand
I love you
And I feel like todays the day
Im lookin for the words to say
Do you wanna be free, are you ready for me
To feel this way
I dont wanna lose you
So, it may be too soon, I know
The feeling takes so long to grow
If I tell you today will you turn me away
And let me go?
I dont wanna lose you
Im gonna take you by surprise and make you realize,
Im gonna te ll you right away, I cant wait another day,
Im gonna say it lik e a man and make you understand
You and i
I know that we cant wait
And I swear, I swear its not a lie girl
Tomorrow may be too late
You, you and I girl
We can share a life together
Its now or never
And tomorow may be too late
And, feelin the way I do
I dont wanna wait my whole life through
To say Im in love with you
Yeah. As I drove home, that song ran through my mind over and over as The Wife and I chatted about her, and about what might happen next, and how long we'll have to keep up the pretense, and so forth. In 20 years of friendship and 4.5 years of marriage, we've gotten to know each other very well, and drives together are very companionable whether we're chatting or just sitting with our own thoughts. The lights of our hometown eventually came up and then passed to the rearview mirror.
As we approached our road, The Wife spoke up: "turn up the radio." I did.
I drove in the driveway, into the garage, switched off the engine, and sat with The Wife and stared at our baby as we listened to Boston perform "Amanda" on the radio.
I'm going now to kiss my daughter goodnight.
Examining a Way to Skin a Cat
Okay, we've come a lot, and we feel we've got a handle on the kinds of things that might work and the ones that probably won't. I personally like the one of adopting the birth mom in order to make her "family" so we can adopt her child...but apparently the Indians also get to decide after the fact that family who are legal but don't have Indian blood aren't "real" family. Sigh. It's difficult fighting an opponent that is omnipotent and has unlimited funds that ultimately come from your own pocket.
One interesting item about the tribe...as things have proceeded, it has come into focus that there appears to be one lady at the tribe that is the problem. We have doubts whether the objection would have been raised at all in the first place except for her. Unfortunately for us, she's the one in charge of ICWA issues.
So our newest hobby horse is one I want some input on from anybody here who has experience. Heck, anybody who has an OPINION.
How would an "informal" adoption work? I've known of similar arrangements families have made, where without a strictly legal arrangement, people for their own reasons would simply raise a child that wasn't their own.
We would get our baby back. It also wouldn't necessarily be like that forever. Birth mom is still determined that we are her parents, and we concur. It would simply be a matter of waiting until such time as that woman is out of that position, and then re-trying. Or maybe filling out the paperwork again in 5 years or something WITHOUT checking the Native American box. The main thing is that it would bring us together with her so we stop missing her babyhood.
The main negatives I see are financial, like not being able to claim her on taxes, or legal, like the chance that somehow to government decides to take her away. If we're not her parents, we have no standing to object. I also wonder about things like health insurance and stuff.
So anybody with any knowledge or experience of such a situation is cordially invited to read the last few posts to get a handle on our situation, and then feel free to comment, stating why or why not such an arrangement would be a good idea.
Labels: Adoption, ICWA
Let Me Count the Ways...
Okay, so you've been briefed on the broad outlines of how the Indian Tribe is tangling our hopes for adoption. But as I've mentioned in passing over the months and as Yoda said to Obi Wan Kenobi's ghost as Luke took off to save his friends: "There is another."
I speak of the advanced pregnancy of "Melanie". I have promised a post on the events of last week regarding "Melanie" and I will deliver, but not here. Here I simply want to discuss the events of this morning.
I was vaguely aware that The Wife was talking to somebody on the phone. No idea to whom or about what, and didn't much care. I was drifting in the twilight zone and was feeling pretty comfortable. I had planned to take today and tomorrow off anyway as far as my boss is concerned, so tomorrow is soon enough to get back to work. Suddenly, I hear words that I had to replay in my mind several times and still couldn't make sense of them coming out of The Wife's mouth: "nigger name". Wha? Huh? Um...am I still dreaming?
I woke up fast then and got the scoop. "Melanie" has decided on a name for her impending daughter. The baby's father's mother was apparently trying to talk "Melanie" out of giving her granddaughter a "nigger name". Now, first of all, I know what this name is and it's a beautiful name. Second, I had NO IDEA that the father's family was like that. Oh, I knew they weren't well off, and collected a lot of government benefits for healthy people, and kept their yard looking like a junk yard. But this is the final step toward my actually believing that these people are honestly full-blooded members of that mythical tribe known as "white trash".
Oh, dear. Dear, dear, dear. No child can be allowed to be raised under the careful tutelage of a woman like that while we are able to influence anything at all. No way, nohow. Uh uh. Not happening until we've done our best to prevent it. And she WOULD be the one to raise the child...the father is pretty shiftless, refuses to hold a job and is pretty much an example of why some women shouldn't be allowed to choose the men they sleep with.
And if his mother was the same type and didn't want anything to do with a grandchild like most women in her position, there probably wouldn't be a problem. I have it on good authority (but not outright said to me) that "Melanie" would love to have us adopt her daughter. But she thinks (and she may be right) that if she doesn't parent the child, then the father's family would get next dibs, and she also knows that that woman would seize the opportunity.
So now we've collected two situations, each entirely different from the other, in which we want desperately to adopt a child, the babies' mothers both want us to adopt their children from birth, and outside influences are seemingly dead set against us adopting either child. As an aside, if we were to adopt BOTH children through a miracle of God, they would also have identical initials. And both mothers appear to me to be roughly the same personality type (though our black/indian birthmom seems to have more fight in her where her children are concerned).
I wonder...how many more adoption situations can we get ourselves into where we want it and the birthmom wants it, but other people decide it won't happen? It could become like a hobby or something. Counting the ways where people intervene in a good thing just because they can.
Do I sound bitter? I am, a little. "Nigger name"? Call me innocent, but I sort of thought that was the kind of thing that was last said out loud in the 60s, outside of those white power groups you see on TV trying to parade through Jewish neighborhoods with swastikas. I'm going to have to get out my copy of "American History X" and watch it with new eyes. This stuff really DOES happen.
In what bizarre world would the law put a child in a home like that before it would put the child in our home? And yet after our experiences fostering and trying to adopt, I know that "Melanie" is most likely right. That would be how it would be likely to play out.
We just got home a couple of hours ago after a week in which we have been absolutely mauled. Let me recap.
We were yanked out of bed at 2am Tuesday morning. We drove to the hospital, got ourselves situated and waited. All was good. Nervous phone calls to Mom, asking nurses dumb first-time-parent questions, and so forth. All wonderful. Baby arrives not long after noon. Birth mama is okay and recovering. Cooing. Oohing and ah-ing. Pictures.
Letter from tribe. This WON'T be our child. Knife to the heart. Anguish. More, less fun calls to Mom and others. Anger. RAGE. Parents arrive. Crying. Rending of garments. Pain.
Phone calls. LOTS. Lawyers. Blah blah blah ICWA STOP RIGHT THERE...we can't help you. Click. Can't help you. Click. Can't help you. Click. Lawyers. Social workers. Pro bono foundations. Gather to plan new strategy. More calls. More clicks. A few interested parties. Too late. Drive home while The Wife stays with birth mama and baby.
"Melanie" is 8 months pregnant (again...another post later on that). She just moved into a new apartment. Stop in to update her and make sure everything's good (she has no transportation). Everything's NOT good. No Melanie in apartment...but her existing child is sleeping. Alone. In the middle of her bed. With no guardrails or pillows. Aargh. Foster parents are mandated reporters.
Trap "Melanie" in her lies when she gets home. Left baby alone for an hour or more. Sigh. Can't deal with it tonight...call child protection tomorrow.
Finally go home. Drop into bed. Not much sleep.
Up again early Wednesday. Drive back 1.5 hours to hospital. More calls. More hangups. A few more interested parties. No eating. I stay with mama and baby, The Wife drives home to see to dogs, etc. A little more sleep that night. LOTS of cuddling with baby...we may not have forever to do that after all. It's starting to sink in.
Up early Thursday. More calls. More hangups. Both stay with baby and mama. Friend sees to dogs while we're gone. Staff WONDERFUL about being sensitive to our problems, our unkempt hair, our everything. Can't say enough about the staff. Watch kickoff of NFL season. Not as much joy in that for me this year, for some strange reason. Still, it was a bit of comfort. Probably the high point of the week unless you count the immediately-ended experience of being a father.
Up early Friday. Baby leaves today. We arranged for her to be at a non-Indian foster home for a week with her brother while mama recoups and tries to get pro bono help. She makes the final determination that the child will NOT go to the reservation, whatever happens. She will parent before that, and continue to look for ways for us to get the baby.
We are ordered off the floor shortly after lunch so they can take the baby away. I kiss my daughter goodbye and leave with The Wife. Humiliation. Despair. Rage. But submission to the process.
We are now in the 2% of clients of our adoption search agency who have ever run out their entire contract without a successful match. 2 unsuccessful matches. Humiliation. Despair. Rage.
ICWA is a horrible law meant to address a valid wrong, which is being wielded by people who care far more about how many federal dollars they can scam off of having babies in their care than they do about the babies themselves. Research has revealed to me that the tribal system is generally a grotesquely racist miscarriage of justice waiting to happen. Love? What's that? Family? Not as important as Native American Blood. Other cultures? So what? If a child has a single drop of NA blood, none of the rest of the blood matters. Mother's wishes? Mothers don't have wishes. They bear their babies for the good (and the coffers) of the tribe.
Baby is mostly black, and therefore will be subjected to horrendous racism from the Indians (many of whom hate blacks maybe even more than whites)? Tough. After all, she can console herself with the fact that she has the honor of having as much as 1/8 Indian blood.
Above all, screw whitey as hard and as often as the chance presents itself. So what if they don't have any ancestors that ever hurt NAs or took their land or stole ANYTHING from them. Their skin is white, they're guilty, so SCREW THEM. THAT is the strong vibe I get from the Indian side (when our people have been able to get them to bother to answer the phone).
Do I sound bitter? I won't claim innocence. Do I sound unreasonable? As I said, I'm very tired and not sure why I'm even blogging right now except to let off steam. Do I sound racist? Probably, though I don't think I am. Yet. But now I may understand a little more what black people sometimes talk about.
Maybe giving us a little more understanding of and sensitivity to such things is the main reason God is subjecting us to this horrible ordeal. If so, it's a hard, hard lesson.
But we will stand by birth mom for as long as she needs us. You may have noticed that we have a huge weakness for folks who don't have much of a chance, and she certainly qualifies right now. The woman has problems. But it's more than that. Because the early positive signs we got from the tribe encouraged us to get to know and love her. And once we love somebody, we don't let them down just because the going gets tough.
We've carefully considered it, and there's just no way we can afford the $30,000+ we've been quoted to fight this thing directly in court. So we'll just muddle on without our child, but visiting her every chance we get. And trying to make sure that this woman, our child and her other child have the material things they need and that she has a shot to make things better for her family.
A baby will come, one way or another. Maybe something can be worked out with "Melanie's" imminent baby (as I said, a post on that later). We're going to continue through our agency on a month-to-month basis for a few months, so maybe we'll find something there yet, as they claim to now have put us at the top of their "match-anybody" list. Maybe a situation we don't even know about yet is just now easing into place for us. We just don't know.
But we know that we need a baby. We know we're good parents who can give a good life to a child. And we'll NEVER give up.
And we may live to regret it. What if the tribe suddenly reverses course, at the same time our agency matches us with twins and "Melanie" decides she can't handle parenting and wants us to adopt her older AND new babies? Eek. Diaper city.
Oh, but that would be heaven.
I don't have much time, so I'm going to be typing at light speed here. Please excuse typos.
The main reason I haven't been blogging this summer is because we were matched with a birth mom in March, and she was scheduled for a C-section birth this Friday (Sept 5). As things progressed, we focused more and more on that and less on fostering. We've only been doing respite for several months now.
The birth mother is 3/4 African American and 1/4 Indian. At birth, her mother registered her with an Indian tribe in of Wisconsin. She notified them of her adoption plans when she originally was matched with us. She double-checked with them 3 weeks or a month ago. All seemed well, though it wasn't official. We've been covering her rent for two months now, with plans to cover a month or two more until she gets back on her feet. We've
We proceeded to arrange for our new arrival. We have her nursery complete, about a year's worth of clothes, even donor breast milk has already been sent and is now ready because we read that that is better for a newborn.
She called us yesterday morning at about 2:00 AM saying that her baby wasn't moving. She has been having trouble with a low level of amniotic fluid for about a week and the doc told her to call the nurse line if the baby stopped moving.
Long story short (a lot has been happening) we drove 1.5 hours to the hospital after helping her arrange for a cab (she's single and poor and has NO resources and another baby to make arrangements for). We were the first to meet the new baby outside of the doc and nurses. We loved her instantly and had about 0.5 hours of parental bliss.
Enter the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Google it. It's a BAD law intended for a pretty good purpose. Apparently it usurps all parental rights from Indian women when their wishes for their children go against what the tribe decides.
The social worker handling our case showed up at the hospital with a somber look to her. She informed us that after giving their verbal okay to the proceedings the entire length of the process and even SUGGESTING that we specifically could "foster" the child until legal stuff was out of the way, she had a letter from them informing us of her choices.
She could parent the child herself. Or the tribe would show up at the hospital and take the child to be parented by an Indian family on-reservation. No other options were to be considered.
Some possibly pertinent facts:
1) The birth mom has stated that she feels raped. She wants to fight this with everything she's got.
2) What she's got isn't much. She is a poor minority woman who has never received any kind of support or benefits from the tribe or anybody else except the government (food stamps, etc).
3) She is resolved that The Wife and I will be the parents of this child.
4) We've spent a LOT of money on this process and we're just about tapped out, especially since we were counting on the tax benefits next winter/spring from the adoption to help cover some expenses. We can afford some, especially if the adoption ends up being successful. But we're pretty tapped out and could use any advice we can get about how to proceed.
5) Our social worker has had a lot of difficulty over the months even getting ANY kind of answer from the Tribe, often getting no answer at their office or getting pushed off by people who claim no responsibility. What responses she DID get were positive until the day of the birth.
6) We're VERY attached to this woman and her existing child, and have developed a very loving relationship with both of them. We're SICK about this. Physically.
7) The child is pretty small, but has passed all her physical tests and is nearly ready to go home.
We're currently exploring the options. One is to possibly adopt the mother, and then we'll be family so we could adopt her child. Sneaky, huh? I thought of that one, though to be fair one lawyer type our friend spoke to called back this morning with the same idea. We're looking into it.
The hospital staff has encouraged us to take the child home, before they receive orders to the contrary. They've witnessed this whole soap opera firsthand and seem very much in our corner to the extent that they're allowed to be. Last I knew (and the situation is VERY fluid) they felt that as long as the mother directed the baby to go with us we have the right to take her home. We have the same armband as the baby and mother and are inside the security loop. They know us and they know the situation. I don't know if that's ethical, but it may be an avenue we take on the theory that once the baby is in our house we can raise the drawbridge and refuse to let it down for anybody without both a badge and a court order. That may be more effort than the tribe is willing to expend on a case that seemingly is no skin off their nose, and they'll drop it. Hey, a guy can hope.
Anyway, if you know anybody that is a lawyer with experience and/or knowledge of Indian law and is willing to work pro bono on behalf of a poor minority woman who is desperate, PLEASE let me know by email. I will check it as often as I can. I'm on my way out the door to drive to the hospital again, but I'm bringing a laptop and I pray they have WiFi.
It would also help a lot if any media types read this, or if any readers could point media types to us or vice-versa. I'll talk to the Star/Tribune (I plan to try to get a reporter on the horn sometime today). I'll talk to any TV reporter that will listen. I'll talk to the National Enquirer, if that will help. A report on the television news or any major newspaper in Minnesota or Wisconsin would be really helpful in shining a spotlight on these particular cockroaches, I suspect.
We're activating our entire social network for this. Pulling out all stops. If anybody, anywhere can give us ideas, or help us in any material way, it will be welcome and remembered.
This child is OUR daughter. We saw her first. We probably only have a few days to act before it will be out of our hands. Helpful comments not only welcome, but begged for.