The Apology

The Apology: Working Together to Strengthen Supports for Indian Children and Families: A National Perspective, Keynote Speech by Shay Bilchik at the NICWA Conference, Anchorage, Alaska, April 24, 2001

“Indian people knew from the beginning that this (adoption) policy was very wrong. … they saw this ‘as the ultimate indignity that has been inflicted upon them.”  David Fanshel’s 1972 Child Welfare League of American (CWLA) study  of these adoptions (which only covered five years in the children’s lives), concluded that while the children were doing well and the adoptive parents were delighted in almost every case, only Indians themselves could ultimately decide whether this adoption program should continue.  “It is my belief,” Fanshel wrote, “that only the Indian people have the right to determine whether their children can be placed in white homes.”  Fanshel came to this realization, as he concluded his research, because of the vigorous Indian activism that was underway in the early 1970s.

“…In the words of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), Congress endorsed the unassailable fact that ‘no resource is more vital to the continued existence and integrity of Indian tribes than their children.’  As you have clearly articulated, children are the future.  …While adoption was not as wholesale as the infamous Indian schools, in terms of lost heritage, it was even more absolute.  I deeply regret the fact that Child Welfare League of America’s (CWLA) active participation gave credibility to such a hurtful, biased, and disgraceful course of action.  I also acknowledge that a CWLA representative testified against ICWA at least once, although fortunately, that testimony did not achieve its end.  …As we look at these events with today’s perspective, we see them as both catastrophic and unforgivable.  Speaking for CWLA, I offer our sincere and deep regret for what preceded us,” Bilchik said.

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