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Lost Children Book Series

How to Open Closed Adoption Records for Native American Children




 





The adoption of Native American children involves not only state adoption laws, but the federal Indian Child Welfare Act as well. This act was passed in 1978 in response to the number of children who were being placed for adoption or foster care in non-Native American families. Agencies with the authority to place Native American children for adoption must first seek placement within the child's extended family; then within the tribe; then within another Native American tribe; and then, if necessary, with a non-Native American family. While adoption laws seal records that provide identifying information such as names, parties involved in a Native American adoption have an additional resource in the tribe in the search for adoption information.

Instructions


    • 1
      Gather information you have. While adoption documents given to adoptive parents and birth parents remove identifying information such as names and addresses, they do provide information and clues, such as date of placement and adoption history. You will need information such as birth dates and placement and adoption finalization dates to find the right records. It also helps to know which tribe or tribes were notified about the adoption.
    • 2
      Contact the lawyer or adoption agency involved in the adoption. In most states, if any of the parties involved in the adoption consented to give out identifying information at the time of the placement, the lawyer and agency will be able to supply the last known information.
    • 3
      Contact the tribal court that was notified of the adoption. The Indian Child Welfare Act requires tribe approval of the adoptive placement and requires that the tribe be provided copies of the adoption finalization for its records. Tell the tribal court what you are seeking and the reason for requesting the documents. Unless the reason for obtaining the information is a medical emergency, the court may deny your request or supply only non-identifying information.
    • 4
      File a petition in the state court where the adoption occurred. While the Indian Child Welfare Act governs how Native American children can be placed for adoption, the adoptions themselves are executed in accordance with state laws. Much like the tribal court, records with identifying information will not be released without consent of the other party or if there is a medical reason.

      In the book CALLED HOME (Book 2) (see sidebar) - we devote an entire chapter on how to use ICWA to open your adoption records to contact the tribe, and how to use DNA results.

30 comments:

  1. Hello, My father was adopted from a native american reservation. He has since passed away and I have no way of finding out any information regarding my heritage other than where and when the adoption took place. It was a sealed adoption. I have been told I am not able to get any information other than this. Is this correct?

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Please email: kumeyaayindian@hotmail.com and tell Karen as much info as you can

      Delete
  2. Hello, My father was adopted from a native american reservation. He has since passed away and I have no way of finding out any information regarding my heritage other than where and when the adoption took place. It was a sealed adoption. I have been told I am not able to get any information other than this. Is this correct?

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  3. I was born of a marriage between a white woman (my mother) and a Cherokee man (my Father). My Mother remarried and her second husband adopt me in California which has sealed birth certificates. I am an adult I have found my siblings from my birth father who is deceased and want to file for Cherokee membership. I have all the Dawes Rolls information. Any suggestions how I can get California to release my OBC to me. I do have the original Adoption papers. The law firm and Attorney involved are no longer in business

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Canne, please contact Karen Vigneault on her website: https://nativegenealogy.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/karen-vigneaults-new-website/

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  4. I was adopted at the age of four along with for of my siblings. I have a name for my birth father. However, my siblings and I have spent many years trying to find him and he is like a ghost. We were told he is native American. After DNA testing, we now know that we are 25% native American. Any suggestions on how to locate someone who is a native American birth parent would be greatly appreciated.

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  5. I was adopted at the age of four along with for of my siblings. I have a name for my birth father. However, my siblings and I have spent many years trying to find him and he is like a ghost. We were told he is native American. After DNA testing, we now know that we are 25% native American. Any suggestions on how to locate someone who is a native American birth parent would be greatly appreciated.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. MY NEW EMAIL: laratrace@outlook.com - send all the info you have.

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  6. i was placed into foster care at the age of three. Bounced back and forth a couple times before being adopted by my original foster parents, around age 10. Long story short im now 25, this last year i was contacted by DSFC stating that I belonged to Seneca Nation of Indians. Now from the research i have done its my understanding that my foster parents should have been aware of this, and at the age of 18 it was my right to be given this information. Of course there are many parts to my story which include not only being in the system from 3 to 10 but back again from 15 to almost the day i turned 18. There are many questions i have about the ICWA in regards to my own adoption. Please let me know if you can point me in the right direction and help would be much appreciated.

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    1. Tiffany, YES, we can assist you. Email me your info and I will forward to Karen Vigneault who helps adoptees search and reconnect. EMAIL: larahentz@yahoo.com

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    2. NEW EMAIL: laratrace@outlook.com

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  7. Hello,

    My name Is Yvette. I did a genealogy test that proved I am 58% Northern Native American. I was five years old the first time I asked my parents, if I was adopted. The response that I received let me know then that there was some truth to it. I remember going to the reservations in Colorado and Wyoming for the Stomp Dance and Powwows. At teh age of ten to twelve we stopped. I asked my dad if he was my dad, he said yes. Then I asked if my mom was my mom and he started crying. After that I never asked again. Now I need to know more then ever. There are so many different stories from different people in my family about my mom being pregnant with me it's crazy. I have been searching nonstop. Please help me find my family.

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    1. Yvette, you do need to confirm paternity with your dad with DNA. Email us: larahentz@yahoo.com

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    2. I know who my father is. It's my mother I'm trying to find.

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    3. new email: Please email: kumeyaayindian@hotmail.com and tell Karen as much info as you can

      Delete
  8. My great-grandmother was taken from her birth family in the early 1900's. She was "adopted" by a large Christian white family, but she was old enough to have a lot of identity issues (understandably!) and she ran away from her adoptive family at the age of 14. She signed on as a cook with a traveling threshing crew and searched for her birth family but wasn't able to find them. Eventually, she married my great-grandfather and settled in North Dakota. She was originally born to a Métis family in Canada, but the family that she was adopted by were living in northern Michigan. I have participated in a DNA study that clearly demonstrates my great-grandmother was genetically nearly 100% Métis, and I have historical letters confirming the location of her birth family, with some names, as well as the full names and past addresses and church missionary history of the family that adopted her. The living descendants of the adoptive family confirmed my great-grandmother's basic life story, although they tend to see the role of their family as having "saved" her, rather than the reality, which is their family having stolen her. They also refuse to further discuss what made her run away, etc. so I'm not able to get information directly from the family at this point. I have letters and some videos in which my great-grandmother writes and speaks in a French-Gaelic influenced native Métis language. What would be the best way for me to proceed in trying to identify her birth family and tribe? This story and her journey are an important part of my family's legacy and we really want to try to map out what happened and hopefully reconnect with members of her birth family. Her early life was very heartbreaking, and even as a young child, I always felt a deep sadness when I was within her presence. She didn't like to talk about her childhood, and she lovingly embraced the family she married into as the only family she had. She had an amazing and mostly happy adult life, but she was never fully the person she could have been if she hadn't been torn away from her family as a child and had her identity whitewashed. As a long-time social worker who specializes in working with troubled teens, I begin to understand her and what she likely went through, largely through gaining an understanding of my current clients' lives and struggles to find a sense of identity and place. Any advice or suggestions of where to go from here are very much appreciated! Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Please email: kumeyaayindian@hotmail.com and tell Karen as much info as you can

      Delete
  9. I have tried the e-mail above to larahentz@yahoo.com, and it says it has been disabled... any current info on anyone who can help??

    I need help... My daughter is 1/4 Native American. Her father is half and his father was adopted off a reservation back in 1/07/1949. Since the grandfather has passed away from severe alcoholism (2012), and the trail stops with him... What I do know is his DOB, he was adopted out of Mendocino County, California when he was 10 years old by a white family. The birth fathers name might have been Gabriel Nava and the grandfather was adopted by Kenneth and Mary Edward Killary. It is believed the adoptive mother may still be alive, but due to divorce over 20 years ago, her name might have changed... The tribes thought to be involved are Mescalero Apache (bio mother) and Yaqui (bio father).
    Is there any chance at locating the adoption records and requesting they be unsealed so my daughter and the entire family has rights to connect with their tribe?
    I have tried several times to connect with someone, anyone who can help with this.... Unfortunately addiction issues run pretty severe in the family, it makes it very hard to keep people on board, etc. I am meeting with a place called NARA tomorrow to see if they can help me at all... Can you guide me on what we can do from our position? Any info would be greatly appreciated!!

    Thank you very much!


    Cyndi R.Gaggero,RN

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    1. Cyndi, I hope you visit this blog. In the new book CALLED HOME: THE ROADMAP we outline exactly what you can do to open records. My new email: laratrace@outlook.com

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  10. Please email: kumeyaayindian@hotmail.com and tell Karen as much info as you can

    ReplyDelete
  11. my great-grandmother was adapted when she was young.she is irqiou in upstate new York.can anybody help me

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. go to: https://nativegenealogy.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/karen-vigneaults-new-website/ and contact Karen. She can help.

      Delete
  12. Was it possible for a child born around 1940 to be adopted between tribes? I am tribally enrolled but have always been told my grandfather was raised in an orphange and then adopted out to "like blood." This means my adopted great grandparents were mainly Irish, my grandmother part Choctaw. My grandfather is supposed to be Cherokee and my mother remembers meeting his birth mother. She asked to not see us again, it was painful. We know his birth father was a married sales man in Oklahoma. I know social workers at this time were telling young Native women it was better to give their children up to be raised. I also know my adopted great grandparent's relocated to Northern California around the time the Cherokee and Choctaw recognize a second trail of tears. My grandfather was extremely abusive, he died an estranged alcoholic in a Choctaw hospital. I am the first in my family to return, to address generational trauma. I'd like to get his adoption records and our true Native ancestry clear. I keep getting bounced back and forth between tribe adoption agencies. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. If you have names and dates, you can certainly contact the Choctaw and Cherokee enrollment offices to ask them for any records for your grandfather. Relatives often raised relatives so it's possible your grandfather was raised by an aunt or uncle and that paperwork may not exist.

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  13. I was adopted at 1. Have no original bc or paper work. I was born to a russian mom and cherokee nation dad and just found this out, my dad was put on a door step with a note from his parents. How do i register with cherokee if i do not have original documentation?

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  14. Hi Jenny, You will need to read the chapter in Called Home about how to go about getting your original birth certificate which will list your original mother and maybe list your father. You can use the federal law ICWA to obtain your birth records through the court system - in the state where you were born. I know this sounds hard but its papers you must have, and you need that paper if you contact the Cherokee Nation.

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  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

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