History: The Rainbow Project

The Editors

HOME HUNTERS: $100,000 helps Indian Council seeks families to adopt children

The Pittsburgh Press – Aug 30, 1984

As many as 3000 Native American children in the United States are waiting to be adopted and the Council of Three Rivers wants to increase the pool of families ready to take them. With a $100,000 grant from the Departments of Health and Human services, the Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center plan to begin collecting information about families willing to adopt Native American and other special needs children who are difficult to place in homes.

A home study includes gathering background and financial information about a family and are necessary to qualify parents for adoption.

Most of the council’s efforts will go toward conducting home studies of Native American families in Pennsylvania and eligible families would be matched with Native American children throughout the country. The council does not know of any Native American children in Pennsylvania who are waiting to be adopted.

A Native American is usually defined as a person with one-quarter Indian blood, which usually means a grandparent was an Indian. A Native American family has to have at least one Native American parent.

“They aren’t a lot of Native American families who have gone through the home study process and are ready to adopt,” said Linda Flanigan who will supervise the project at the councils’ offices in Dorseyville, Indiana Township. “They may not have the money or they are on long waiting lists.”

According to social workers there are as many as 100,000 special needs children in the country. Nearly 600 are in western Pennsylvania. Besides Native Americans, these children include blacks, Hispanics, the handicapped, children over 12 years of age, and sibling groups.

While healthy Caucasian infants are placed quickly, others may wait for years for a family to adopt them. One reason for the delay is lack of home studies. In the next two years, the council hopes to complete home studies on 195 families in Pennsylvania, 105 are Native American, who are interested in adopting the special needs children. It aims to assist adoption agencies in placing 50 Native American children and 75 other special needs children.

In the project called rainbow, the Council will use the grant money to hire three persons, develop the program, and pay the costs of state licensing as an adoption placement agency. The new employees, a social worker and two para-professionals will help with the home studies and prepare families for adoption.

As part of the six-week process, the social worker and a parent who has already adopted children will work with about 10 families at a time. The prospective parents will talk about their concerns and experiences with children in weekly counseling sessions. The social worker will also have private meetings with the couple or single parent. When the counseling sessions and private meetings are completed, the social worker will summarize the findings. Adoption agencies will review the summaries and decide which family is suitable for a child in its custody. The family will decide whether it wants to adopt the child and visits will be arranged.

“The groundwork has to be done before families get to the point of going to an agency,” Ms. Flanigan said. “If there’s a call from a specific agency, we may have the right family, a two-parent family or a single parent who may want a six year old child.”

After adoption the Council will provide family or individual counseling and other supportive services to ensure there is no disruption, a word used to describe an adoption that fails.

“Sometimes parents have problems in the transition from being childless to having maybe too many children,” Ms. Flanigan said. “From the other side, we help the children adjust. If they have been living in foster homes, they may have anxieties about whether the placement is permanent.”

The Council expects to receive it provisional state license as an adoption placement agency in the next month and to start the home studies in October (1984). The Council, which hopes to continue the rainbow project without having to rely on government grants in the future, will charge between $100 and $600 for the studies, depending on family incomes.

Federal statistics show a higher percentage of Native American children in foster homes, group homes and institutions, more than any other minority. Same-race placement is required for Native American children unless a Native American family cannot be found, according to federal law. And it’s preferred for other minorities.

“One reason is to avoid problems that may occur in adolescence. During those years, there’s the problem with self-image. If the child is of a different race, he may wonder why he’s different from everybody else around him,” Ms. Flanigan said. “There is a special difficulty with Native American children because of stereotypes perpetuated in history books and films. You hardly see an Indian without a headband and feather,” she said. “The Native American family could counteract the negativeness of the media and instill pride in the child.”

Although the emphasis is on doing home studies for Native American families, the project is open to all families, regardless of race. The only restriction is that the families be willing to adapt special needs children because “these kids are out there.”

Ms. Flanigan said, “It makes no sense for us to interview families who want healthy white infants when they won’t be available.”

The project is called rainbow after an Indian ritual in which bands of color are placed on a babies cradle. The rainbow in Indian lore represents goodness and a beginning.

The project was born after the success of the council’s Native American Adoption Resource Exchange, a link between tribes and agencies that have Native American children waiting to be adopted and those that have Native American families who want to adopt.

The (ARENA) exchange registered more than 400 families and 200 children across the country in the last two years, and assisted in placing more than 100 Native American children. However, about 200 of the registered families are waiting for home studies.

Source: Pittsburgh Press, August 30, 1984.

PA Indian Council

PA Indian Council

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