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Contact CN ICW

Phone: 918-458-6900
E-mail: Homes4Kids@cherokee.org
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Adoption

1. Question: What are the fees for the Cherokee Nation adoption program?

Answer: A criminal background check is required on each person over the age of eighteen living in the home. The adoptive parent is responsible for the fee necessary to obtain this information. Currently the fee is $15.00 per person, however, this is subject to change. Fingerprinting is also required on each person over the age of eighteen living in the home. The adoptive parent is responsible for this fee also. Currently the fee for fingerprinting is $45.00 per person, however, this too is subject to change. 

As an adoptive home, there is a fee for Cherokee Nation to complete a homestudy.  Currently that fee is $1,000.00 and is subject to change at any time.  Once certified, there is a yearly re-certification fee of $350.00.

You will also be responsible for any attorney fees associated with the adoption. There is also a filing fee required when filing your adoption papers with the court clerk. This fee, and also your attorney fees vary from court to court and attorney to attorney.

You have the option of having your home study done by someone other than Cherokee Nation. If this is the choice you make, then you must be aware that the fees charged by licensed professionals vary and these will be your responsibility. Cherokee Nation however does not charge a home study fee or an adoption fee.

6. Question: Can single parents be certified through the Cherokee Nation?

Answer: Yes. Of course these applicants must be Indian and will be considered like anyone else on their ability to meet a child's particular needs.

7. Question: Do we both have to be Indian to adopt through the Cherokee Nation?

Answer: No. To be eligible for our program at least one of the prospective adoptive parents must be able to prove enrollment in a federally recognized tribe.

8. Question: Do we have to be Cherokee to adopt through the Cherokee Nation?

Answer: No. While Cherokee Nation gives priority to certification of families of Cherokee descent, we actively recruit families associated with other federally recognized tribes. We also work closely with other tribal agencies and have provided families for other tribal children in the past.

We would also recommend that if you are a member of another tribe, it would be to your advantage to contact your tribe and let them know you have been certified for adoption so they are aware of your availability for adoption.

9. Question: How long does it take to get certified for the Cherokee Nation Adoption Program?

Answer: A waiting list is maintained that registers the inquiry of each potential adoptive family as they contact our adoption unit. We contact the families for certification in the order that their inquiry is received. The waiting list averages approximately one hundred names at any given time and we get to them as soon as humanly possible.

Our services are free to those adoptive couples adopting Indian children but remember you have the option of hiring a licensed social worker, at your expense, to complete your home study. This can speed up the certification process. If you choose this option, we will require a copy of the credentials of your contracted agent.

10. Question: How do we get a home study if we don't live in Oklahoma?

Answer: The adoption unit certifies homes free of charge for our Indian families as long as they live within approximately an eight-hour drive and an overnight stay. If you do not reside within this range, then your home study must be contracted out through a licensed social worker. Contracting costs are your responsibility so shop around. We will require a copy of the credentials of your contracted agent.

General Information:

1. Question: Do I have any legal standing prior to the termination of parental rights?

Answer: No. Prior to termination you can only be considered as foster or fost-adopt parents.

2. Question: Do we both have to be Indian to adopt through Cherokee Nation?

Answer: No. To be eligible for our program at least one of the prospective adoptive parents must be able to prove enrollment in a federally recognized tribe.

3. Question: Am I too old to adopt an infant?

Answer: Here again there is not an exact answer to the question. Each situation varies. The rule of thumb that Cherokee Nation uses is that we want the adoptive couple using the consideration of normal life expectancy, to be able to raise a child and physically provide for that child to at least age eighteen and hopefully beyond. All children and adults need connections throughout their lives. We give the total life connections of the child consideration when making placement decisions on the eligible age of the adoptive family.

4. Question: Does Cherokee Nation have a blood-quantum requirement for adoption?

Answer: No. We serve Indian families of varying degrees of blood-quantum. During placement, we do try to match up, to the best of our ability, the blood-quantum of the child with the blood-quantum of the adoptive parent.

5. Question: Can you take my child away after the adoption is finalized?

Answer: Once the adoption is finalized, the child is then your child, just as if it was your biological child. Adoptions will not be finalized until the time limits for filing appeals has lapsed or the appeal process is exhausted.

The only allowance for placement disruption after the adoption is finalized is if the birthparents can prove that they were coerced in any way to voluntarily relinquish their parental rights. Such proof must be supplied and proven in a court of law within the first two years after finalization. Nothing can invalidate an adoption after the two years has passed.

This would not apply where the tribe or state terminated parental rights of a child involuntarily.

ICWA Answers:

1. Question: Do private adoption agencies have to follow the federal Indian Child Welfare Act?

Answer: Yes. Private adoption agencies, adoption attorney's and state agencies are all required to follow the federal law. Cherokee Nation intervenes in all private adoptions of a Cherokee child and WILL NOT consent to a non-Indian placement.

2. Question: Is a private agency responsible for notifying the Cherokee Nation when a Cherokee child may be placed for adoption?

Answer: Yes. Private agencies and attorneys must follow the federal mandates like any state or public agency. As a private agency or attorney it should be common practice that "Do you have Indian heritage?" be one of the first questions asked. If the Indian Child Welfare Act is not followed, the adoption can be appealed for up to two years.

3. Question: What does the federal law require when deciding an adoptive placement of an Indian child?

Answer: The federal law requires that certain placement preferences be used for placement of an Indian child for adoption. The law gives first priority for adoptive placements to a member of the child's extended family. If after a diligent search, which must be documented for the court, a relative is not available the placing agent or court must proceed to the second preference placement that is placement with a member of the Indian child's tribe. Cherokee Nation has a large adoption program. Because of this placement availability it makes it almost impossible for agencies to place a Cherokee child outside of the tribe. The Act also allows for the placement with members of another Indian tribe if there is not an adoptive resource within the child's tribe. Federal law does not make allowances for placements with non-Indian families unless the resources listed above are not available. As stated, Cherokee Nation maintains a substantial pool of such resources.

4. Question: What is "good cause" to make placement outside the adoption preference placement specifications of the law?

Answer: For Cherokee Nation "good cause" could only be established, if no suitable relatives were available for placement and there were no Cherokee Nation families available to adopt. It is in this area that the "good cause" standard would fail as Cherokee Nation has an abundance of approved adoptive homes that are made available across the United States to meet the placement needs of our Cherokee children. It is our belief that "good cause" cannot be established for any placement of a Cherokee child outside of the preference placements of the Act.

5. Question: What are the consequences of not following the federal Indian Child Welfare Act on placement decisions?

Answer: To Cherokee Nation, the most critical consequence is a disrupted placement. If a state court does not follow federal law and allows an illegal placement to occur for an extended period of time the correction of such an error will cause placement change. Depending on the length of time involved before the correction is made, disruption could have long-term effects on the child. Some courts have made placement errors and depend on the length of time necessary for appeal to cement placement and declare "bonding" as a reason for "good cause" not to move an Indian placement. This is a flagrant attempt to circumvent the law at the child's expense. The law is clear on preference placements and the court's responsibility is to follow them. The best defense that the tribe has in such issues is a legal appeal. Appeals are never the first option of Cherokee Nation but we are ready to do so when such placement violations are blatant and Cherokee Nation has offered alternatives to the non-Indian placement that meets the needs of the child.

Placement:

1. Question: Once I am certified, how long does it take to get a child?

Answer: It is impossible to answer this question accurately. Children are not lined up waiting to be picked out like vegetables in a market. Children who become eligible for placement are transitioned into a permanent placement as soon as possible. Placement with you also depends on what type of child you are willing to accept and that may or may not be what type of child is the next available.

2. Question: What do you mean by a fost-adopt placement?

Answer: Fost-adopt is a home that is providing foster care to a child who is not currently legally free for adoption. This is the home that will be utilized as a permanent adoptive placement if and when the legal barriers are resolved.

3. Question: What is a legal risk placement?

Answer: Legal risk is the term that is applied when there is some barrier to finalization of the adoption process. There are various degrees of legal risk that is involved when adopting a child. When you are approached about a particular child for adoption, any such barriers will be fully discussed with you so that you can make an informed decision about whether or not this is the placement for you.

4. Question: Does each child placed in my home have to have its own bedroom?

Answer: Not necessarily. Each child's individual needs are considered when making this type of placement decision. It is sometimes good for children to share rooms just as it is sometimes necessary for them to have separate rooms. If a child or children have no history that warrants separate rooms, then we feel it is much more important for that child to be a part of a permanent family than to be kept waiting for placement just because they won't have their own bedroom. However, if the situation warrants, we may request that a child have its own room.

5. Question: Will we get a child if we don't live in Oklahoma?

Answer: Your location is not a factor. Cherokee Nation ICW is involved with any voluntary or involuntary court proceeding that concerns a Cherokee child throughout the United States. We have a vast need for adoptive parents in every state.

6. Question: How am I selected for placement of a child?

Answer: If it is a voluntary proceeding, Cherokee Nation ICW tries to comply with the wishes of the birthmother. If the birthmother wants to choose the family for her unborn child, the Cherokee Nation contacts families who are willing to comply with her wishes (i. e. open adoption, meeting the family, closed adoption, pictures and letters, etc.). The worker then provides the birthmother with de-identified home studies of families who state they are interested in being considered for that particular placement.

The same hold's true with private adoption agencies as well as with birthmothers. Cherokee Nation tries to meet the birthmother's expectations and requirements for the family that will be parents to her unborn child. But, with private agencies, families will also be contacted about the fees. Home studies will be submitted on those families willing to pay those agencies fees. In situations where the fees are so exorbitant then Cherokee Nation will negotiate with that agency to reduce their fees, as many good families cannot afford to "purchase" a child.

If a child is in state custody, then there are usually two workers, a Cherokee Nation worker and a state worker. The placement worker receives information on the child/children in need of placement and finds families that are possibly willing to meet that child's needs. The Cherokee Nation worker and the state worker will collaborate together and find the family that will best meet the needs of the child.

If the child is in tribal custody, all willing families will be considered and the Cherokee Nation worker who best knows the needs of the child will make the final decision on placement.

7. Question: What will be expected of me when a child is placed in my home?

Answer: There are always agency expectations from any placement and they vary from child to child and agency to agency. But, most of all you are asked to take this child and love it. You are asked to maintain a sense of reality and realize that some of these children need a little more time, a little more patience and a little more love. You are asked not to give up so easily when times get hard. But mostly, you are asked to take the opportunity you are given and make a difference in a child's life.