This paper forms Part 1 of a two-part discussion paper on Indigenous custom adoption. Zeroing in on the entangled histories of adoption and colonization, it outlines a short history of adoption in Canada, examines the impact of forced, closed, and external adoptions on Indigenous adoptees, and traces the move toward more open statutory adoptions and greater cultural connection and continuity in adoptions. This historical review sets the stage for Part 2 of our discussion paper, “Honouring Our Caretaking Traditions,” where we highlight the connections between customary laws regarding caregiving and the resurgence of Indigenous authority over child welfare within a context of Indigenous self-determination and self-governance.
This paper forms Part 2 of a two-part discussion paper. Part 1 outlined a short history of adoption in Canada, examined the impact of forced, closed, and external adoptions on Indigenous adoptees and families, and traced the move toward more open statutory adoptions and greater cultural continuity in adoptions. Having zeroed in on the entangled histories of adoption and colonization in Part 1, here we explore traditional and contemporary practices of Indigenous custom adoption and caretaking. We first recount Western understandings and impositions, then feature Indigenous perspectives that centre spiritual and ceremonial protocols, values regarding child well-being and community connectedness, and the importance of kinship and customary forms of caretaking. We consider both the promises and complexities involved in designing and implementing custom adoptions, and the urgent need for adequate, equitable funding and supports to ensure their feasibility and sustainability. Finally, we highlight the resurgence of Indigenous authority over child welfare within a context of Indigenous self-determination and self-governance.
Following a historic meeting of staff with Alberta Children’s Services and the Yellowhead Tribal Services Agency (YTSA), a pilot program, the YTSA Open Custom Adoption, was developed. The agency initially researched existing adoption models in the Northwest Territories, British Columbia and in the Cheyenne Nation in the United States. An advisory committee, comprised of one Elder from each member First Nation community, was asked to provide guidance and direction throughout the project. From 2000 to 2010, YTSA placed over a hundred children in adoptive homes without any adoption breakdowns (Peacock & Morin, 2010). Although the agency has now closed its doors, there are lessons to be learned from the YTSA Open Custom Adoption program which is still viewed as an advanced model of adoption service inspired by traditional First Nation teachings and child caring. This article is a review of lessons learned from this agency and in particular, the importance of connectedness to family, community culture and nationhood for Indigenous children and adoption.
This article tells an intergenerational narrative about how historical pandemics and family adoptions stories can influence urban Indigenous custom adoption practices, policies, teaching and research. It uses the seven principles of Archibald’s (2008) storywork to link the importance of knowing our own family histories, and how those historical, cultural and current contexts can be a force to advocate, influence, research and teach for change. The “canoe” is a metaphor for re-conceptualizing adoption narratives, and emphasizes the idea of an “adoption journey” or a shared learning process.
This paper calls for creative pathways of engagement that delineate places of belonging for and with Indigenous youth in care. It draws on two community-based research studies conducted in British Columbia, with urban and off-reserve Indigenous youth to contextualize and extend understanding of permanency for Indigenous youth in care. Our discussion explores permanency in relation to both Western understandings of government care, guardianship, and adoptions, and Indigenous customary caregiving and cultural planning for cultural permanency, such as naming and coming home ceremonies, custom adoptions, and kinship care.
This paper argues that the resurgence of Indigenous peoples’ citizenship orders can be informed in part by tenets of Indigenous customary adoption. The paper considers registration as an Indian under Canada’s Indian Act as having conflated being “Indian” with a Eurocentric property-holder identity, which First Nations now internalize through band membership practices. As such, I argue that adoptees and customary adoption are seen as suspect because they challenge the blood- and property-based conceptions of what it means to be “Indian.” Anishinaabeg customary adoption is taken up here in an analytical approach to re-thinking how citizenship could be discerned in anti-colonial ways; specifically, I consider “caring for others” and the concept of “controlling our associations” in developing an adoption-centric theory of Anishinaabeg citizenship.
The article discusses cultural permanence for Indigenous children and youth from the perspective of the executive director of Northwest Inter-Nation Family and Community Services (NIFCS), a delegated Aboriginal child welfare agency that serves nine Indigenous communities from three First Nations on British Columbia’s northwest coast. Through increasing cultural knowledge, NIFCS aims to enhance its practice to meet the holistic needs of children and youth in care, in particular, to ensure that children and youth maintain connections with their families, extended families, and communities. NIFCS provides experiential opportunities for children and youth to know about, and learn their languages, spiritual teachings, and cultural traditions from their Elders, families, and communities. Ultimately, NIFCS’s goal is for the children and youth in its care to be strongly connected to their roots and experience a sense of belonging. This paper looks at connectedness and cultural diversity in the context of cultural planning for permanence, relates these concepts to NIFCS, and outlines promising practices within NIFCS.