There are no typical adoptions. No normal circumstances in which they occur. They occur for millions of different reasons. That being said it would seem with all the different stories floating around it would be hard to be surprised by some of them.
I listen to Radiolab occasionally. Today while I was laying on the floor doing some hip rehab exercises (just had surgery!) I thought I might as well try to find something to listen to. I really enjoyed the last Radiolab I had listened to so I went back for more.
“Shorts: Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl” May 30th, 2013. Read my Radiolab Podcast. I immediately clicked on it not knowing how powerful of a story I was about to enter.
Here is the blurb that Radiolab attaches to their story:
“This is the story of a three-year-old girl and the highest court in the land. The Supreme Court case Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl is a legal battle that has entangled a biological father, a heart-broken couple, and the tragic history of Native American children taken from their families.
When producer Tim Howard first read about this case, it struck him as a sad but seemingly straightforward custody dispute. But, as he started talking to lawyers and historians and the families involved in the case, it became clear that it was much more than that. Because Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl challenges parts of the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act, this case puts one little girl at the center of a storm of legal intricacies, Native American tribal culture, and heart-wrenching personal stakes.”
The story is called Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl. It draws from a lot of different sources, as Radiolab tends to do. It isn’t very often that I feel reporters and news outlets report on topics surrounding adoption in ways that I feel are helpful to a constructive dialogue. I can happily say this is a major exception even though it isn’t perfect.
I don’t want to summarize the story because I want to encourage everyone who is interested in the complexity and depth of adoption stories to HEAR this story.
I think that the most positive aspect of the work the Radiolab folks did was try not to paint the adoptive couple and the first father as adversaries. In many adoption stories, especially those that make national news headlines the adults involved are usually painted as adversaries. One is usually portrayed as a helpless victim and the other as ruthless and insensitive. Radiolab is able to keep the focus away from the tempting drama battles and keep it on the issues at hand. But, knowing that the listeners are forming their own views about each Radiolab works to provide an image of each as working for the same cause (welfare of the child) but through different means.
They used this very personal story to demonstrate a few things: 1) This story has the possibility, although unlikely, to call into question the constitutionality of many Native American laws, 2) That stories are multi-layered and each layer in this story has the potential to change your mind 3) Humanity. The people in this story, the adoptive couple, the first father, the first mother and Veronica (the girl) all did what they did believing what they were doing was the best option. That malice or revenge does not characterize this story, genuine desire to do the “right” thing.
So far this has been more of a review of Radiolab than of the story!
After listening to the story I agree with Marcia Zug, author of Doing What’s Best for the Tribe. She is featured on the radio story as well. I think that once you learn and understand the situation that Dusten was in when he waived his parental rights it changes the whole victim blaming narrative on its head. It is not easy, ever, to decide to take a child out of a loving and caring environment but when it ended up there for questionable and in this case somewhat tragic and possibly intentional reasons I think it is right to return the child to its first family. I can see how incredibly difficult this must be for the adoptive couple and understand why they are fighting for custody, but I wonder what they think of Dusten’s side to the story if that strikes a chord in their hearts? Even if it does, their love for Veronica and feeling that they have been done wrong my trump that cord.
Have others followed this story? I am generally late to the game with these types of things but would love to hear other people’s responses. And, yes I will say it again, LISTEN TO THE STORY! The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the story sometime this month. Check out Scotusblog.com for info on the Supreme Court case.