The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


A question of identity

"Indian Children Find Homes." The November 1966 article in The Lutheran Standard, the magazine of the former American Lutheran Church, profiled a family who had adopted two American Indian girls from Lutheran Social Services of South Dakota. An excerpt:

"It is a moral law that a responsibility exists to provide for the minimum needs of any people dispossessed by another people when territory is taken by force. Lutheran Social Services of South Dakota intends to face that responsibility by trying to answer the needs of their Indian neighbors — not with a preaching ministry, but reaching out as an arm of the church with a service of love, they offer the same social services that are given to Caucasian families in the area. They begin by finding foster and adoptive homes for Indian babies and small children, and by helping teenagers."

The story also said 500 American Indian children were available for adoption. In the past two years, Lutheran Social Services of South Dakota has facilitated only one American Indian cross-cultural adoption — reflecting that tribes nationwide are now much more reticent to allow children to leave their culture through adoption than they were 30 years ago.

The federal Indian Child Welfare Act charges agencies to first try placing a child with relatives on a reservation before looking to other tribal members or tribes. If the original tribe approves, only then can the agency open the adoption to another family. Depending on the circumstance, a tribe will often serve as a cultural resource for a child who is raised in a family with a different ethnic background.

"I have had a lot of adoptees that have grown up in white culture calling because they have lost their identity and are having so many struggles," says DiAnn Kleinsasser, adoption program specialist for the South Dakota Department of Social Services. "The tribes believe, and we believe, that children grow the best in their own culture."




Posted at 7:10 am (U.S. Eastern) 8/11/2008

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