This is about a love story. A love between 2 people, their children, their family, their friends and their community. First came Bill and Alicia who met playing tennis and are passionately in love with each other. Before getting married in 2010, they both agreed having children together would be a great thing. Bill had two children, Alexandra and Will, and Alicia did not have any children. After getting married they began the process of in vitro fertilization which was not successful. Undeterred, they felt this only meant that God’s plan was for them to adopt all along. They began the process of looking into adoption. However, it turned out they were not able to work with traditional adoption agencies. None of the 20 adoption agencies they looked into would work with them. Bill’s age, over 45, as they discovered, basically is an absolute “stopper” in terms of working with agencies.
From there, Bill and Alicia attempted to work with a third party on-line matching service. After making a five figure investment in this effort, it was unsuccessful.
Undeterred once more, Bill and Alicia turned to private adoption via working with adoption lawyers. And this is the rest of this love story…..
We meet with a lawyer in Oklahoma City to consider engaging his firm to assist in an adoption. Following a 2 hour meeting that revolved around discussion of our goals as parents, our backgrounds, etc., our lawyer presented us with 2 possible birthmothers with whom he was currently working to place their unborn children. Based on this discussion, we decided to meet with the birthmother that we felt would be the best fit for us.
The next day we met with her for a couple of hours, and following this meeting our lawyer informed us that she liked us as much as we did her, and she had selected us for placement of her unborn child.
She has requested that no other parties know about this adoption – no family, no third party, etc. She required absolute anonymity. We honor this request as do our lawyers.
Finally!!! We are headed toward having our own child.
Our initial meeting went so well, that the following Monday Alicia took her to her doctor’s appointment, as well as each appointment throughout the remainder of her pregnancy. From that day forward, the birthmom and Alicia built a unique relationship and text one another frequently, often on a daily basis. We have as open an adoption relationship as one can imagine.
Ashlyn Rae Towler enters the world. Our families are all at the hospital for her birth, and Bill and Alicia are in the delivery room where Alicia actually cuts the cord. We take Ashlyn home from the hospital the day after she was born.
The birthmother AND birthfather go before a local judge in Oklahoma County Court to execute legal documents and formally forego their parental rights and consent to Alicia and Bill becoming the parents for Ashlyn. It is our understanding that we should receive our adoption decree before Thanksgiving.
10 days later the Cherokee Tribe files a “Notice of Intervention” on our adoption claiming, based on the Indian Child Welfare Act, they have the right to take Ashlyn and place her with a Cherokee family.
Some background at this point:
- Alicia and I were well aware that the birthmom was a card carrying member of the Cherokee Tribe. We did our homework on this issue. We covered all the legal basis with our lawyers before and after birth to insure the tribe received proper notification, was well aware of the birthmom’s condition of anonymity, etc.
- Birthmom let the parties involved know early and often, that, under no uncertain circumstances, would she ever consent to an adoption of any kind (tribal or otherwise) by anyone other than Alicia and Bill.
- Birthmom believes the best interest of her child is to be with Alicia and Bill.
- Ashlyn is 50% African/American, 48% Caucasian and 2% Native American.
- The birthparents have several other children together – none of which she has chosen to enroll in the Cherokee Tribe.
- The birthmom has never been active in any shape, form or fashion with the Cherokee Tribe, other than getting turned down for help the couple of times she has asked.
- As a matter of fact, on her adoption questionnaire she listed her race as Caucasian and not Native American.
The Cherokee Tribe initiates litigation against Alicia and Bill over the adoption of Ashlyn.
Since November of 2011, we have had a trial costing us an incredible sum of money (which still continues as there are on-going legal fees and this will continue until the matter is resolved) and, more importantly, the emotional toll and damage it takes on your family that can’t be measured. Our trial concluded in September of 2012, however, we do not expect to have a formal ruling until after this Christmas.
What makes our case unique is that the counter parties are actually the Cherokee tribe vs. Alicia and Bill Towler (as opposed to one of the birthparents enlisting the help of the tribe to fight for their child to be returned). This is all despite the wishes of the birth parents
The tribe still came after us. The Indian Child Welfare Act requires that notice be provided to the tribe in advance of a delivery involving a tribal member. We did this and complied with ICWA. The birth mother has never received any support from the tribe. The tribe is claiming the preferences of ICWA were not met and Ashlyn should be placed with a member of the Cherokee tribe – regardless of the interests of the birth mother. What makes our case “unbelievable” to understand, and we don’t, is why they are going after a loving, caring family that is providing a great home for Ashlyn when the birth parents, under no circumstances, will ever consent to a tribal adoption? The tribe is taking the position that none of that matters and the best interest of the child is to be placed with an Indian family (remember Ashlyn is only 2% Native American).
We can’t begin to communicate the toll this takes on a family. We did everything right. We followed the rules and the law. From the day we were matched with our birth mother Alicia took her to all of her doctor appointments, text messaged with her regularly and continues to do so. We still get together with the birthmother occasionally, and have as open an adoption as you can imagine. The birthmother and the birthfather were put thru the emotional ringer of having to testify in trial – as were my wife and I. None of us wanted any of this. Yet, here we are, well over a year later still wondering if we will ever get this case resolved and fearful of what could be the future of our daughter.
None of this makes any sense and, by all practical measures, this is wrong on so many levels. We believe we have an obligation to share our story with others, so hopefully we can educate prospective adoptive parents about ICWA and, ultimately, look to have an impact on changing this incredibly prejudice and unfair law.
The purpose of our blog is to share what we have learned and the on-going story of our battle to keep our daughter. Thank you for visiting our blog and please feel free to leave comments or contact us at any time if you have any questions that we can address. As we receive any updated information or news, we will continue to post new information.
Bill and Alicia Towler