Our Story

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…..

July 2011

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.

October 2011

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.

November 2011

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.

Kindest Regards,

Bill and Alicia Towler


36 thoughts on “Our Story

  1. Pingback: Alicia and Bill Towler and their adoption struggle with Indian Child Welfare Act « CoCoJolly

  2. Thank you for including me in your life again despite the sadness of the situation. I will pray for resolution and healing for your family and your birth parents.

  3. This story has brought tears to my eyes. I will pray for your family. I know how prolonged and stressful a situation like this can be and I hope for peace for you all.

  4. Alicia, I am so sorry your family is being attacked in this way. Stay strong. I am not familiar with tribal law, but I do know that in all other family law cases, it is the best interests of the child that controls and that is with you.

    • Unfortunately, in ICWA cases, because of the incorrect interpretation of the Holyfield case, courts have often interpreted ICWA to place the interests of the tribe on par or above the interests of the child. Tribes often say that their children are their most important resource.

  5. Thank you for sharing your journey! I love seeing pictures of your precious baby girl & your happy family! Praying for this to subside quickly & for your family to ALL be together peacefully!!!
    Amy Hughes

  6. Oh, I am SO sorry to hear this is still going on. I had hoped that it would all be done, in your favor of course! Inwill forward this blog to my friend who is trying to adopt. Thanks for including me! I will be thinking of you.

  7. Stay strong! You are fighting for a just cause. NO TRIBE owns a child. Will contribute in any way that will help your family. Enjoy every moment with her this Christmas and remember that we are all praying for a positive outcome!

  8. I am so sorry to hear of your story! Saldy this happens everyday and there is nothing that has yet stopped it. We were foster parents in 1991-1998 and we had Native American children placed with us. Once the birth mother realized that she was not going to regain custody she went to her tribe for help – she was reinstated but her children never were. The tribe showed up unexpectedly in court and the children were taken by the tribe immediately. That was almost 18 years ago – I am not hopeful it will ever change. Best of luck….

  9. Thank you for joining in the fight against ICWA. Its misuse and abuse is causing pain and heartache for many, many families. Unfortunately, a lot of families, like my own, cannot make their ICWA struggles public because either the courts will not allow them to speak of it, or, as in our case, we are foster parents (of a Native American child) and are bound by a confidentiality agreement.

    ICWA should be amended and we all need to fight together to see this law amended or repealed.

    The GAO (government accountability office) made a report to congress on ICWA in 2005. Sadly, only 4 states provided data (there is no accountability for how ICWA is used) and it was completely voluntary (so we have no way of knowing how accurate the data is). I believe, from experience with my own case and hearing about others’ cases, that ICWA not only disrupts adoptions, but prolongs the time in foster care for children who were involuntarily removed, and increases the number of placements for Indian children, whether foster care or private adoption cases.

    I will be praying for you and for all the families who have been negatively affected by ICWA. I am so sorry that you are going through this and will pray that God will give you a victory in your case and will use your story to change the ICWA so that others do not have to go through what we have been through. God bless you.

  10. Thank you for sharing your story. I have been praying for you and Judi has been keeping me updated. I’m glad you have this blog to keep everyone informed and especially to raise awareness. This is so completely wrong and I will pray that this nightmare will end soon with final custody of Ashlyn!

  11. Bill and Alicia, As an adoptive parent myself, my heart and prayers go out to you and Ashlyn, I pray this nightmare for you ends quickly. I remember well how I felt when at the time we adopted our son, there were several stories in the press that time about birth parents trying to reclaim their biological children even though the child had been with their “real” parents for many months. It was a scenario I prayed we never had to encounter and I can imagine how hard this is for you. I cannot believe this can still happen in this day and age. My thoughts and prayers are with you, my best to all of you.

    • I am so sorry for all the pain you guys are going through. Just looking at her sweet happy face, you can tell she is content. I will pray for a speedy end to this. We are thinking of you guys.

  12. Your story touched my heart and your family is in my prays. I’m a single women looking to adopt and have been doing a lot of resesrch but have never heard of this. Thank you for sharing your story and helping others.

  13. I am adopted & lost my Dad a little over a year ago. I understand the difference between birth parents & real parents. My real parents are the ones that raised & cared for me. The law does not always represent the will of the people involved or follow a rational strain of thought. But I have seen your family in action & in love & w/ my adopted experience believe that you will continue to be great parents once God’s will is done. Stand strong. Will you be able to counter sue once the courts have ruled in your favor or is it just not worth the additional expense>

  14. I’m now up to speed and totally dumbfounded by the sheer stupidity of this situation. Off to read more and get more angry.

  15. Your story really touches my heart, especially b/c I am abt to have a baby & I cannot imagine someone trying to take him/her from me. W/e the circumstances, your child is your child. Your story really inspires me to pass on this info & help ppl who plan on adopting. I know sometimes the weight may seem too heavy, but just remember, God will never give you anything that you can’t handle. You’re in my prayers & I really look forward to hearing abt what happens. Y’all seem like lovely ppl & God will help the courts see that. I am so sry abt your constant struggle, but obviously your daughter was brought into your life for a reason. 🙂

    God bless,

    PS: I am Christian & I just want to apologize if your faith is different from mine b/c I don’t want to be offensive w/ my references to God. So, I’m apologizing in advance, just in case! 🙂

  16. Thank you for sharing your story…we will be praying for you all, and for final resolution confirming your legal adoption of Ashlyn. God IS in control….

  17. I really hope that this isn’t a case of a lawyer who decided to cut corners because it would be “easier” instead of doing things the proper way like they were telling you they were. I have heard of cases where lawyers have strung along some poor couple, getting their hopes up and making promise after promise that “we’ll handle it” while pocketing their money and not doing anything right. And then down the line some kind of problem comes up and it turns into a heart wrenching battle over a child caught in the middle.

    What bothers me about reading this is the mothers request for “absolute anonymity”, and the report that the lawyers followed this. How could they have released her name and information to the tribe if they kept her anonymous? I really truly hope that some paralegal didn’t bungle the paperwork for you and that it will come out that yes the tribe had a legitimate chance to object before but they waved on it. I also hope that this isn’t because some other family member objected to the adoption and this was the only means they had of stopping it.

    My heart goes out to you. Best wishes.

    • Ella,

      When filing the request for anonymity with the tribe the birthmom’s name is not revealed. That obviously changed when the tribe decided to come after us. Unfortunately, they do seem to understand what the word NO means. And, the family of the birthmom had no knowledge of the pregnancy. Alicia and I have been intimately involved in every step of the legal process and are comfortable with the effort of our lawyers in this process.

      The tribe is simply taking the position that they have a right to establish a relationship with Ashlyn regardless of what the birth parents want for thier child. We sincerely appreciate your comments and prayers!

      Bill and Alicia

  18. Alicia…thank you for sharing your story. That baby belongs with you and Bill. It is so obvious and we will pray for this to resolve in your favor and soon….Paula Casey

  19. We too have gone through this. We lost our daughter after a court battle. We’d had her for 3.5 years. We had to put her in a car with bio family. Worst day of my life. We got her back after she was abused by her birth family. We adopted her a year ago. Truly a miracle. I hope and pray you can keep your daughter. This law is not used in the best interest of the child.

  20. Alicia, I am so sorry to read your story. What a heartbreaking ordeal for all of you. I pray that they will see what is best for the child and your family, not some law they need to fulfill. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

  21. I know you all are ecstactic over the ruling! I’m so happy for all of you but especially for Ashlyn.
    No baby deserves to be ripped away from the only family they have ever known.

  22. A few questions:

    1) When was the biological father made aware of the adoption plans?
    2) When did he agree with the adoption plans?
    3) Was he also present at his baby’s birth or did the birth mother list herself as “Do Not Report” so that the biological father couldn’t be present?
    4) If I understand, you live in Oklahoma, so no ICPC paperwork was necessary. Is that correct?
    5) When was the Cherokee Nation notified about Ashlyn’s birth and when were they notified about the adoption plans?
    6) Which lawyer put you in contact with expectant mothers?


    • Kym,

      1) and 2) The birthparents were still together as a couple and living together so their decision for adoption was a joint one, so he was aware from the beginning and went to meet with the adoption attorney with the birthmother when they decided on adoption. This was before we had met either of them. So, he agreed with the plan at the same time she did.
      3) Birthfather was not at the hospital for delivery but it wasn’t b/c of any problems. The birthparents have 3 other children together, so he stayed home with them, until it was time for her discharge, and then he came up there to pick her up and bring her home.
      4) Yes, we are in Oklahoma so no ICPC.
      5) They were notified of the pending birth before delivery. I do not recall the specific date, but it was before she was born. This is when the tribe was also provided with the signed affidavits from both birthmother and birthfather requesting they be allowed to select adoptive parents and not have the Cherokee’s involvement, along with a request for annonymity. Within a few days after birth, they were notified by the birthparent’s attorney of delivery.
      6) Our attorney was Robert (Bob) Boren and he is the one who connected us with the birthparents.

      Please let me know if you have any other questions.

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