Challenges to law could redefine Native American foster care, adoptions

Gilbert resident Mimi Condon calls the struggle to make her oldest son part of her family her “39-month labor.”

That’s how long it took to adopt David because he’s a Native American and the Condons are not – which meant the 40-year-old Indian Child Welfare Act came into play during the adoption, adding layers of complexity to the process.

The Condons did not set out to adopt Native American children, but three of their four adopted kids – David, now 11, Tommy, 7, and Isaac, 4 – are Native American. Condon tries to keep them connected to their roots, but said she adopted the boys to get them out of foster care and into a loving home.

Read more: Challenges to law could redefine Native American foster care, adoptions

Navajo Nation Wins Appeal in Indian Child Welfare Act Case

The Arizona Court of Appeals ordered a new hearing Thursday over the guardianship of a 6-year-old child who is subject to the Indian Child Welfare Act.

The Navajo Nation appealed the case, The Navajo Nation v. Department of Child Safety et al., in October 2018 after the juvenile court failed to hear the testimony of a qualified expert witness as required by the ICWA in the child's guardianship case.

The child, R.Y., falls under the act because his mother is a member of the Navajo Nation.

Read more: Navajo Nation Wins Appeal in Indian Child Welfare Act Case

For Never Familes?


Governor Doug Ducey made headlines this spring with bold pro-adoption maneuverings. But with approximately 18,000 children – and counting – in the state’s care, is Arizona as adoption-friendly as we claim?


Now’s the time to help our children

As we enter the 2015 holiday season there are more than 18,000 children in Arizona’s foster care system, and the number is growing. On average, 33 children come into foster care each and every day. There are not nearly enough foster homes for the flood of children coming into care, and many spend their first few days sleeping in DCS offices. In Maricopa County alone, we are caring for more than 12,000 children in foster care.

How can we as Arizona taxpayers help children in foster care? The issues surrounding the Department of Child Safety are numerous and overwhelming. What an individual taxpayer in Arizona can do to make a difference in the life of a child today is simple.

Read more: Now’s the time to help our children

National Adoption Month: Connecting kids with families

FLORENCE, Elisia Manuel doesn’t sugarcoat the challenges of adoption and parenthood. But those things have also filled her heart and given her a purpose in life.

Manuel, a 33-year-old mother who lives in Casa Grande, and her husband, Tecumseh, adopted their third child on Saturday at the Pinal County Courthouse in Florence.

The Saturday event in Florence was one of many that took place across the country to celebrate National Adoption Month.

A couple of days before the adoption, Manuel talked about her prior experiences and how she was looking forward to officially adopting her third child. Adoption provided her and Tecumseh, who have been together 11 years, the opportunity to be parents.

“We always wanted children; I found I wasn’t able to have children (myself),” she said.

Last year, Manuel adopted two children, a boy and a girl — both are just a few months shy of their third birthday.

But the children have been in Manuel’s custody almost since birth. She said the adoption process can take a year or longer. It took 14 months for the adoption to be “fully finalized” with those children from last year’s adoption, Telisia and Tecumseh Jr.

All three children the Manuels have taken in are from the Gila River Indian Community; Tecumseh, 34, is a Gila River Indian Community member.

Adoption attorney Tamera Shanker said Arizona has more than 18,000 foster children, and approximately 2,400 of those are “legally free” to be adopted.

If a child is “legally free” to be adopted, a couple can adopt immediately, without the long wait that accompanies adopting other children whose biological parents are still finalizing paperwork through the court system to release their child.

Manuel is promoting adoption to the masses because she said there aren’t enough foster families participating.

“I encourage everyone to get involved and think about foster care and adoption,” she said. “A lot of kids end up in group homes.”

The child Manuel adopted Saturday, a son named Micah, has been in her custody for a year-and-a-half, since he was two days old. But Manuel said it’s a different feeling when things become official and finalized for adoption.

“I’ve been counting the days down for a month … I’m so excited,” she said. “My heart skips beats and my stomach is in knots because I know he’ll be mine forever.”

Manuel’s passion for adoption led her to create a nonprofit organization called Three Precious Miracles — more information can be found at

The nonprofit, which Manuel said is in its infant stages and run out of her garage, provides care packages for foster families who want to adopt Native American children. She said many families have trouble providing basic necessities like shoes and clothes to the foster children.

Three Precious Miracles has sent care packages for about 100 foster kids so far, Manuel said.

When asked what the foster parent experience has been like, Manuel acknowledged it isn’t always easy.

“It has its ups and downs; there’s a lack of resources in Native (American areas),” she said. “We appreciate the fact that we’ve been given the opportunity. It’s been such a blessing for us.”

Donna McBride, a Court Appointed Special Advocate supervisor and co-chair of the Pinal County Adoption Day event, said the county is proud to be involved with the effort.

“By giving these children stable, loving environments, you can make a powerful difference in their lives,” she said. “And our communities, in return, will experience incredible joys and rewards.”

According to a Pinal County news release, more than 100,000 children are in the United States foster care system. Every year, more than 4,000 adoptions are finalized across the country on special adoption days.

More than 22,000 children turn 18 annually without having a foster family.

Shanker, the adoption attorney, said potential foster families don’t need to look outside Arizona to find a foster child.

“We need not go beyond the borders of our state to create a family through adoption, as we have thousands of our state’s children that are looking for a forever home,” she said.

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