Thursday, December 18, 2008

Indian Child Welfare Act, Florida, and Coerced Adoptions

After being contacted by Mary Ramos, who is a victim of coerced adoption in violation of the Indian Child Welfare Act, I reviewed her story and had the opportunity to talk for an hour and a half about the legal battle she finds herself in regarding her son Elijah, where the judge ruled against her after ignoring blatant fraud, coercion, and violation of ICWA. After hearing her story, I find myself compelled to share it with my readership.

A simple search regarding coerced adoption leaves you with a mind numbing amount of information, with the ultimate result, sadly, being that the practice is more common place than one would think.

In many cases, my research has indicated that Florida’s laws are so loose as to allow adoption schemes, coercion, and traps that are not overturned by legal challenges – even in the case of Mary Ramos, who contacted the agency in order to rescind her paperwork within the allotted three days. As my research has found, once you are targeted by a Florida Adoption Agency – “you are screwed”… and the courts are unlikely to support challenging mothers fighting paperwork they signed under pressure from these agencies.

However, in Mary’s case, there was a simple fact that was overlooked – Mary is a Native American, registered with the Avogel tribe of Louisiana – with a certified note from the Tribal Chief, blood records, birth certificates, and registry information to support her tribal belonging. This makes her child, by rules of the tribe, a registered member of the Avogel tribe – and as such, subject to the rules and regulations of the ICWA – Indian Child Welfare Act of Congress (circa 1979) - in the case of forced termination of parental rights. Mary Ramos has the ability (but not the means) to appeal the ruling of Florida Judge Arthur M Birken for a number of procedural and evidentiary irregularities – but the major source of concern is that the Judge threw out ICWA in the ruling and the adopting agency failed to notify the BIA or the Avogel Indian Tribe, in violation of 25 CFR § 23.11A.

A ruling in the Colorado Jefferson County District Court addressed this issue on November 30, 2006 – stating such:

Congress enacted the ICWA because of concerns over the involuntary separation of Indian children from their families for placement in non-Indian homes. B.H. v. People in Interest of X.H., 138 P.3d 299 (Colo. 2006). The purpose of the ICWA is to protect Indian children who are members of or are eligible for membership in an Indian tribe. 25 U.S.C. § 1901(3) (2000). The Colorado General Assembly has expressly provided for compliance with, and consistent application of, the ICWA. See § 19-1-126, C.R.S. 2006.

The ICWA promotes the best interests of Indian children and protects the stability of Indian tribes. The ICWA is based on the presumption that the protection of an Indian child’s relationship with the tribe is in the child’s best interests. People in Interest of A.T.W.S., 899 P.2d 223 (Colo. App. 1994).

The ICWA applies when the state seeks to place an Indian child in foster care and when the state seeks to terminate parental rights. See 25 U.S.C. §§1911, 1912 (2000). Under those circumstances, whenever the court knows or has reason to know that an Indian child is involved, the party seeking placement or termination must provide notice to the child’s tribe or his or her parent’s tribe, or to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (the BIA) if the tribe cannot be identified or located. 25 U.S.C. § 1912(a) (2000); see also People in Interest of A.N.W., 976 P.2d 365 (Colo. App. 1999).

If notice is not given in compliance with the provisions of 25 U.S.C. § 1912, the tribe may petition to invalidate the order terminating parental rights. 25 U.S.C. § 1914. The tribe may raise the issue of inadequate notice in the first instance in this court, as the ICWA specifically provides that the issue of inadequate notice may be raised in "any court of competent jurisdiction."25 U.S.C. § 1914; see In re L.A.M., 727 P.2d 1057 (Alaska 1986); In re Antoinette S., 104 Cal. App. 4th 1401, 129 Cal. Rptr. 2d 15 (2002).

In this case, the state was removing Native children to foster care due to violent criminal and drug related behavior of the father. The children belonged to the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. The court ultimately upheld the appeal, rejecting the termination of parental rights based on the failures in the notification process required for removing native children from native family members. In Mary’s case, the question of state mandated child removal versus consent of adoption (with reversal of decision within the short period of time allowed) needs to be answered.


In discussing this issue with Mary, a substitute teacher and avid member of her church, she described the events leading up to the initial contact with the adoption agency. There was serious financial and mental hardships which caused an increased depression, which led to her new husband to suggest contacting the agency. The husband is not the biological father of the child, Elijah, nor is he the father of Mary’s 10 year old daughter (9 at the time of the court ruling). Mary’s contact with the adoption agency led to immediate, consistent, and persistent contact by the agency convincing Mary that adoption was the best option for the 1 ½ year old boy. The process, as well as the persistence, placed Mary under a great deal of duress, resulting in the eventual coercion to meet a family, sign the paperwork, and turn over her child. Florida law allows a 3 day period in which the biological parents can reconsider their actions – which Mary did. The adoption agency was given a telephone call, which was met with resistance and a notice that Faxing such a request to renege would not be allowed – which meant that a 4 hour trip would be necessary to file such paperwork, causing Mary’s filing time to be in excess of the 3 day grace period. In the end, Mary lost her child on a technicality – with full intent of keeping her child. A technicality which the Florida judge wrongly upheld.

Mary has not seen her son, a picture or otherwise, since October 2007.

Mary showed intent to repeal the adoption within the mandated time, made an attempt to stop the process within that same time, and as such, this ruling became a case of forced removal – by the judge – in violation of ICWA.

The judge did not find Mary unfit to be a mother, else she would have lost her eldest child, Autumn. The judge ruled on behalf of the agency, upholding their right to terminate Mary’s Parental Rights – but did so with the following irregularities:

1. Allowed Mary’s attorney to remove himself from the case (after collecting
$10,000) the day before trial. The judge allowed a continuance of about 6 weeks,
which was a time insufficient for Mary to find proper legal counsel – Mary
ultimately had to represent herself.

2. The removed attorney was a childhood friend of the judge, and spent some time working as a clerk for the judge – the judge ruled that he would allow the attorney to leave the case.

3. The judge knowingly allowed perjured testimony from the notary public, provided legal advice to her from the bench, and therefore knowingly allowed fraudulently
notarized documentation as evidence against Mary.

4. The judge dismissed any request from the Avogel tribe to be made party to the suit, any acknowledgement of the ICWA procedures (as this was a case about forced adoption), and dismissed jurisdiction complaints from the Chief of the Avogel Tribe.

5. Mary’s date for a retrial was set 2 days before she was delivered the order of the court, making it impossible for a request for retrial.


This leaves Mary with no choice but to appeal – leaving her appeal date as December 25th 2008. Mary is left without legal counsel, without funds to acquire counsel, and without sufficient knowledge of legal rules to properly file an appeal that won’t be thrown out on a simple technicality (such as using an individual’s full name as opposed to initials in the body of the appeal). She is in desperate need of immediate advice, else she loses her child on a technicality – and ultimately on fraud and coercion.

The United States ICWA states in Title 25, Chapter 21, § 1901 (3)


“that there is no resource that is more vital to the continued existence and integrity of Indian tribes than their children and that the United States has a direct interest, as trustee, in protecting Indian children who are members of or are eligible for membership in an Indian tribe;”
As such, with expressed interest being shown by the Avogel tribe, expressed interest by the mother to renege the adoption within the three day period, the State of Florida and justices therein should comply with the intent of federal law and federal protection of the integrity of the Avogel tribe.

Mary Ramos: "If I do nothing they win. If I open my mouth and tell the world, maybe someone will hear..."

Mary is in dire need of assistance on this case. If any reader has the ability to provide advice, feedback, or contacts that could assist in her appeal, please contact me and I will gladly put you in contact. We have a week to uphold justice – for a tribe – for a mother – and for a child.

****UPDATE****
Mary has requested that I make special mention to share this story, blog about it, YouTube about it, forward it on to all types of media - mainstream and alternative. her case is not a lost cause - and an informed public can do wonders to aid in her struggle, as well as help others who may find themselves in the same process of coerced adoption!

God Bless!

11 comments:

  1. Wow, Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Someone who finally listens to what adoptees and first families have been saying for years. Adoptive families are just now starting to realize this. You picked one of the best blogs out there to quote. The author is a friend of mine. You have no idea how much I appreciate someone else seeing this from my eyes.

    I started this journey three years ago. I was supposedly denied contact with my first mother. Because I did not understand and I have no proof that she did this, I began a journey that has left thinking adoption has to be fixed before it can be an answer to anything.

    Thank you for writing such a wonderful post. This has happened to so many women that it is hard to get a good count.

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  2. Excellent post, and wonderful links. Thank you.

    As a follow up, Stephanie Bennett lost her baby. Her family didn't have the money to continue the battle. It is tragic that in this country women are predators of other women's children and women lose their babies because they cannot afford to continue to fight.

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  3. A real travesty, this case. It reflects the injustice toward many millions of "clans" and "tribes", if you will; all races, colors and creeds. Children have been stolen for decades by those wishing to "complete" their families at the expense of another family's grief and unbelievable loss. The "unspeakable" has been spoken by natural mothers worldwide. Thank you for adding your voice.

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  4. .....and, once again a mother a child are separated because the mother lacks money......the very same reason I surrendered my little girl to an agency in 1970.....not forgetting I also lacked support from my parents and an agency that heard my pleas to keep my baby but offered nothing but a surrender paper to sign.......

    Thank you, thank you for writing on this subject.

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  5. Thank you for your understanding the coercion used in adoptions. I am sending a copy of your blog to my first son in Florida who I lost to an illegal, coerced adoption in 1970. I too hope for Mary and her baby to be reunited. I will forward this to my friends in adoption reform.

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  6. THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO HAVE POSTED COMMENTS AND WHO HAVE FORWARDED THIS BLOG ON TO OTHERS!! KEEP SENDING IT OUT AND CONTACTING OTHERS. UNITED WE STAND AND DIVIDED WE FALL!!
    I AM MARY AND THIS IS MY STORY! I WANT TO STRONGLY VOICE THAT THESE PRIVATE ADOPTION AGENCIES ARE CREATED TO MAKE MONEY AT THE EXPENSE OF THE NATURAL PARENTS AND THE CHILDREN WHO WILL LIVE WITH AN IDENTITY CRISIS FOR LIFE! WHEN THERE IS A COMPLAINT OR COURT CASE INVOLVED.... THE ADOPTIVE FAMILIES, NATURAL FAMILIES, AND CHILDREN INVOLVED SUFFER, BUT THE ADOPTION AGENCIES WALK AWAY AND CONTINUE THIS "HUMAN TRAFFICING" BUSINESS...... ALL IN THE NAME OF WHAT IS IN THE "BEST INTEREST" OF THE CHILD! THE LAWS NEED TO BE CHANGED NATIONWIDE. THESE AGENCIES SHOULD BE OUTLAWED!! A "TRUE" ADOPTION SHOULD ONLY INCLUDE BOTH SETS OF PARENTS AND A GOVERNMENT AGENCY OR MEDICAL DOCTOR TO FACILITATE DOCUMENTS. THAT'S IT!!! WHERE DID THE NEED EVER ARRISE THAT A "PRAIVATE" AGENCY IS NEEDED TO FACILITATE THE PROCESS. THESE AGENCIES ONLY CAUSE CHAOS TO DO THIS PROCESS WHETHER THE NATURAL MOTHER WANTS TO OR NOT!! A COALITION FOR GOD'S CHILDREN IS WHAT WE NEED! GOD CHOSE THE NATURAL PARENTS AND LET NO MAN SEPARATE WHAT GOD HAS PLACED TOGETHER! I CONTINUE TO PRAY AND ASK FOR GUIDANCE!

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  7. Hi Steven,

    I still don't know if you're a brother in the Lord born of God or not. But I'm turning loose my 100% doctrine.

    I was a 5 point Calvinist. God is 100% Sovereign. He is in 100% Authority. He has provided His 100% Grace and Love in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

    I'm believing in a 100% Atoning sacrifice effectually saving all mankind. Therefore, the lake of fire is not eternal torment but rather total destruction of all sin and evil. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

    Everyone goes to Heaven in the end by God's Grace as God has mercy on all. Everyone comes to the same salvation and the same saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as Savior of all the world who effectually atoned for all the sins of the world, all the sins of all men, and is, effectually, the Savior of all men - meaning all men will be saved.

    All are the children of God in Adam. All must be born-again. All must be thereby recreated. All shall be in the end.

    That's the sum total full gospel if you'd like to review my doctrine.

    Again, it's Reformed doctrine - but I believe Unlimited Atonement - not eternal torment. It has to be one or the other. Either the Atonement was Unlimited, or hell is not eternal. The last enemy to be destroyed is death - along with it all sin and hell is destroyed. Therefore, there is no eternal torment or eternal death. Death is destroyed. The Atonement is Unlimited and Effectual to all mankind. Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord - everyone is saved in the end... on the last day.

    I posted a bit about it on my "Grace Explosion" blog. But since you are one to seek out truth, I thought I'd give you a heads up. I decided to share about it.

    Grace.

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  8. Mary,

    I just read this article. I'm so sorry. My prayers are with you. May the child be returned. Sometimes it takes protest and many eyes to see what is happening for accountability.

    May the child be returned to you... may they fear God... and may the angels be with you on December 25, 2008.

    God bless you and your family. I wish I could do more to help you.

    Love in Christ,

    Grace.

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  9. I have read much of Mary's history. I am NOT a lawyer, but I believe the judge made several errors. One was in using as the sole factor for denying application for protecxtion under the Indian Child Welfare act the statements of an attorney for a rival tribe whose testimony is refuted in his own tribe's application with the Interior Departemt for Federal recognition claiming Mary's tribe to be part o his.Thus making a demand to have it both ways. Just my opinion, that somebody who "uses" the Avogel tribe to establish the legitimacy of their tribe, and then claiming the Avogel are not eligible to be members certainly should shoot that tesimony in the posterior.

    As I understand it, the Tribal Court has recently issued an Order demanding jurisdiction. By all that is right and holy, this should trump the county court and move the issue into a Federal process.

    Mary did some foolish things, but the point here is a lack of human charity to understand her situation. She has done the best she can with where she found herself.

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  10. FROM THE ADOPTION COMPANY:

    I wish before writers would put supposedly a complete & accurate
    representation of a story out to the public that they would at least
    speak to all parties involved. I would like that opportunity and I am
    willing to share the entire ruling by the judge. There is so much that
    was left out of the story you presented. Not just the other side but so
    much that Ms. Valik left out of her story.

    I, like Steve would like to know what those things she left out would be. I wouldn't be all too cocky becaue the issue of the Indian Child Welfare Act's application is likely not to go your way once the issue is in a Federal Court. Your blind reliance on the representations of the Tunica's attorney, I believe you will eventually find leaves you and the Circuit Court standing in quicksand. You should know better than to rely on somebody with such an easily proven ax to grind and to dissemble.

    The court materials seem to say all that needs to be said. Mary and her child were treated badly.

    Adoptions in Florida are a multi billion dollar RACKET.

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