Arnold Lyslo, “Suggested Criteria to Evaluate Families to Adopt American Indian Children Through the Indian Adoption Project,” 1962

The following criteria are designed to assist agencies in submitting adoptive studies of families interested in adopting Indian children through the Indian Adoption Project. These criteria were developed out of experience and through consultation with agencies who have participated in the Indian Adoption Project. It is hoped that these criteria will standardize the referrals of adoptive families, thereby including those essentials which will enable agencies to evaluate the capacity of a family to adopt an Indian child. This should not be thought of as a restrictive instrument, but rather a guideline to what we believe an adoptive study for an Indian child should contain. . . .

H. Motivation of Family to Adopt (a) Any Child (b) an Indian Child:

1. When did the couple first think of adoption?
2. Are the parents equally motivated?
3. What experience has the couple had in caring for children?
4. Do the adoptive parents want the child for their own sake or that of the child? What do they say they expect of a child and how do they visualize their family?
5. When and how did the family come to the decision to adopt an Indian child?
6. What has been their experience with Indians?
7. Is the adoption of an Indian child considered second best?
8. Would the family adopt a child of a minority group other than Indian?

I. Attitudes of Adoptive Parents Towards Illegitimacy and the Natural Parents:

1. Describe attitudes of adoptive parents concerning the adoption of an illegitimate child. Are there any different feelings about an illegitimate Indian child or an illegitimate child of another minority race?

2. What are the feelings of the adoptive parents concerning natural parents who give up their child for adoption? Would these be different for Indian parents or parents of other minority races?

3. How does the adoptive couple intend to tell a child about his adoption and his own heritage? Will they allow and help an Indian child to feel proud of his Indian heritage?

J. Readiness of Couple to Adopt:

1. Has the couple satisfactorily worked through their own feelings regarding childlessness to be able to make a positive transfer to an adopted child with his inevitable differences?

2. Could the couple assume the same risks with an adopted child that they would if they were having a child of their own? What are their goals for an adopted child?

3. Could they be flexible in relation to children referred including age, sex, physical and mental handicaps, and any other conditions in the child’s background? Are they only interested in adopting an Indian child?

4. What are the color tolerances of the family in considering the adoption of an Indian child?

5. Does the family have any strong preferences for or prejudices against any particular Indian tribe? (If there is strong preference for a child from a particular tribe, the League attempts to find a child of this tribe. However, this cannot always be done.)

K. Attitudes of Adoptive Parents Toward the Rights of a Child Because He Is an Indian.*

1. Could the adoptive parents accept tribal enrollment of an Indian child if this were the wish of the natural parent(s) or tribe? (A natural parent may, in some instances, preclude tribal enrollment of a child unless tribal regulations determine otherwise.)

2. Would the adoptive parents accept monies coming to an Indian child either through tribal enrollment, payment of a claim against the Federal Government, or from other sources? (These monies would be set aside through guardianship or other trust facilities according to state law where the child is being adopted until the child reaches majority.

L. Since ours is a pilot project to evaluate the placement of Indian children with Caucasian families, would the adoptive parents agree to participate in the research aspect of the Project if selected to do so? The adoption of an Indian child is not contingent upon the adoptive couple’s willingness to participate in this research. However, we like them to make this contribution to our study if it is geographically feasible for the League researcher to interview them.

M. Couple’s Request

1. Age range and sex preferred

2. General statement as to color, health and any other significant factors relating to the couple’s request in adopting an Indian child.

N. Worker’s Evaluation of the Family and Recommendations.


*Indian children have certain rights which are theirs by birthright. That is, they have rights of tribal enrollment if they meet the requirements for enrollment set up by the tribe. As tribal members they have the right to share in all the assets of the tribe which are distributed on a per capita basis. The actual as well as anticipated benefits of an Indian child adopted through our Project are furnished by the Secretary of Interior. The Secretary of Interior, through the superintendent of the Indian agency where the child is enrolled, has the right to approve or disapprove of any plan made for the distribution of funds belonging to an Indian child.


Source: Arnold Lyslo, “Suggested Criteria to Evaluate Families to Adopt American Indian Children Through the Indian Adoption Project,” December 1962, pp. 1, 3-5, Child Welfare League of American Papers, Box 17, Folder 3, Social Welfare History Archives, University of Minnesota.

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