Unconditional love is what every child deserves and what so many hopeful families want to give to America’s foster children. Unfortunately, there are stories like that of the Wilmes family who went through extensive foster to adopt programs for six months only to have their hearts broken after months of attachment to a young boy promised to them and then taken away.
The Wilmes family is an ideal family for a child with none. A mom and dad who are both elementary school teachers and their two daughters ready to share their families love with some deserving child. The Wilmes became instantly attached to an 8-year-old boy who was in foster care in Oregon. He had a bright smile with dimples to show it was genuine. The Wilmes applied for adoption of the boy they called “J”. After three months of anxious waiting, they received the news that they were in the three final families to be chosen. The Wilmes began to receive further e-mails and readings about J, which attached the Wilmes even more without even meeting him. They would have family discussions on what he would be like and the things they could do with him.
After two long months of waiting, the family received a call form the caseworker that J was now officially a part of the Wilmes family. They celebrated with hugs, tears, and made a book about their family to give to J to get to know his new family. After the 7-day, provisional period the Wilmes were informed that another family was appealing their selection. J’s caseworker expressed that an appeal had not happened in the state of Oregon over seven years and it was nothing to worry about. After waiting for 7 days, there was still no phone call. Finally, they received a phone call but the news was not good. A family, which had Indian heritage, appealed the decision. They argued that since J was 1/8 Choctaw Indian, he needed to be in an Indian home. The next morning, the received the confirmation the appeal had been denied. The Wilmes drew a sigh relief but their emotions were still running high after that scare.
The Wilmes drove to J’s foster home; his foster mother told them that he had built a fort in his room and wouldn’t come out until they arrived. She told them J had received the book they made for him and he fell asleep with it every night. The family finally got to meet J with big chocolate brown eyes and adorable little dimples. They took him for picnic, gave him swimming lessons, and listened to him talk about himself. J was already calling the Wilmes girls his sisters. They were sad to leave J in Oregon but because of the appeal there was more paperwork to be done. J was anxious to be home, he would call every night before bed and request a Spiderman themed bedroom.
Just as everything had finally fallen into place, the Wilmes were torn down by just one phone call. On August 29th, J’s caseworker called saying the Choctaw Nation recommended that J wait to be adopted into a family within the tribe. He would not be adopted into the family the appealed the adoption but would have to wait for another family that tribe could find. It was a done decision, no more phone calls with J, no true explanation either.
Under the Indian Child Welfare Act, it is mandatory that once children who are 1/16 of any Indian Tribe are put into foster care, the tribes must be contacted. This means the State of Oregon contacted the tribe the minute J, and his 5 others siblings went into foster care. The Choctaw Tribe first denied this family of children so the state of Oregon took it into their own hands to acquire grandparent’s names to confirm them. After the children were official members, Oregon contacted the Choctaw Tribe to help with medical fees but the tribe refused. All of J’s siblings have been adopted to non-native families. This has to make people wonder, “What’s going to happen to J?” and “How much longer will J have to stay in the foster care system?” You have to wonder if the ICWA was appropriately applied in this case, or if it has become an antiquated law that is causing more harm than good. The Wilmes family was ready to give J conditional love but the Indian Child Welfare Act kept them apart and left J with no family to go home to.