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Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Tamra Keepness Update

Local radio is reporting that the other 5 children in the
home have been removed by Saskatchewan Community Resources and Employment (family services). The five year old has been missing for two weeks now, punctuated by conflicting reports about what went on in the family home the night she disappeared and charges against the mother's boyfriend for assault for a fight that occured that evening.

Posted by Kate McMillan on July 21, 2004 | Permalink


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I can only hope with all my heart that these kids don't end up in reserve-run Social Services care. I've seen horror shows in these inflated bloated foster-care industries on reserves. They have turned foster-care into an industry of sorts.

I know of some foster-parents whos kids are living on Mr.Noodles and Kool-aid while their fosterparents spend their support money on Bingo.
And those are some of the BETTER homes.

I've not discussed this matter publicly - because it's been too personal and for legal reasons - but here goes. The band can't doing anything to us now.

My husband and I, although libertarian are personally comitted to pro-life. We got pregnant 2 years ago. We had our daughter on Dec 23rd 2002. We weren't married - we were in a bad situation financially and I could not see being able to properly care for our baby and continue with the journalism and activism of the past 6 years. The law is very clear on adoption regarding Aboriginal babies in Canada. If an Indian Band wants to make a fuss, and basically kidnap the child from adoptive parents (if they are non-aboriginal, or even just NON aboriginal of our sort) there is nothing the birth parents can to to protect the baby from having their life torn apart by overzealous social workers.

We drove 3000 miles to California, so our daughter could be born safely in America, be an American citizen and completely out of the jurisdiction of my Indian band. Our greatest nightmare scenario was that because I am so obviously the main opposition to our chief and council, they might try to stop the adoption process or seek to place the child in our indian band's run foster-care system. A system that I have seen as a goddamn nightmare for many of the kids who are in it.

I had hyperemesis - was throwing up dozens of times a day - I had hypertension, and had to be hospitalized in the US when we arrived because of the stress. I also couldn't tell anybody in the community about the pregnancy for fear that there might be some interferrance with our plans to chose her parents and do the out of country adoption.

It was a grueling and scary experience.
And we did it to KEEP our daughter out of DIA run bureacracy.

It's been over a year since our daughters adoption was finalized. She is in a lovely home with wonderful parents that we chose.

Its amazing how in the name of "protecting our culture" Indian bureacracies are AS committed to the kinds of actions that Residential School systems engaged in decades ago. The concern for the well-being of the children is simply not present in these cases where children are snatched from the ONLY parents they have ever known and brought back to be wards of Indian Band bureacrats.

Like I said - I wish with all my heart that the Keepness children are in good hands now.

Posted by: MWW | 2004-07-22 5:01:20 AM

Yikes! What a hair-rasing tale!

Posted by: Kathy Shaidle | 2004-07-22 12:46:15 PM

" I could not see being able to properly care for our baby and continue with the journalism and activism of the past 6 years."

You know, without putting to blunt a point on this... I think you might have been better advised not to share this "personal" tale. Not that I don't think that adoption was the right choice in your case, but, holy cow....

Posted by: Kate | 2004-07-22 1:17:35 PM

I dunno, Kate. That sounds to me like adoption was exactly the right thing to do in her case. I applaud her decision, if not her sense of priorities.

Posted by: Kevin Jaeger | 2004-07-22 1:26:54 PM

"I think you might have been better advised not to share this "personal" tale" -

We've thought long and hard on this. I was prompted to start opening up about the situation because of a recent case involving Native foster kids in Ontario who are being forced back to the Squamish Indian reserve to foster-care there, despite the fact that their foster parents in Ontario are the only parents they have known their whole lives. This is clearly disruptive to the kids. 4 years ago - nobody in the extended family wanted anything to do with these "special-needs" kids. When I read this - I couldn't help but be reminded of the gloating of a pair of foster parents I overheard once on the reserve that they had gotten some of their "rent-a-kids" (as they called them) - classifed FAS and Special needs. You see, when that happens, it's a jackpot for the foster-parents.

In our own family, one of my aunts who with her husband is extremely alcoholic. Granted, I thought removing the kids from them when they were heavy into a binge was a good idea. However, the home they were placed in.... OH MY GOD. There was garbage and clothing stacked 2 feet high in every room in the house. My young cousin who has eczyma was not able bath, and his whole body after 6 weeks in the place was covered in an outbreak. There was cat poop all over the place. The mattresses that the kids were sleeping on were filthy - stained with urine and without sheets. The place was swarming with insects.

It was a pretty shitty situation. All in all - if you add up what the foster-parents of my cousins were getting for 4 kids it was well over $2000.00 a month for their care. Most of it appeared to go towards the purchase of BINGO and junk-food.

In any event - it was one hell of an incentive for my aunt to sober up - dump her alcoholic husband and get her life together. She's got her kids back now.

Still - I've known lots of non-native foster homes - including the one that I spent a few months in as a baby. NOTHING compared to this house of horrors. No, the kids were not abused - but the neglect was just heartbreaking.

It's the dirty little secret about "self-government" as it currently being bandied about by Aboriginal Leaders, that nobody wants to talk about.

I'm likely to be pilloried for making statements like this. Oh... that's another funny thing about Indian Band run foster-care and child-protective services. One of the more common tactics of silencing disent on reserve is for the Band Officals to order child-protective services to "investigate" the parents if they speak out or become politically active. I've had more than one parent confess that they would really like to back us up at meetings, or attend protest of our band government but they feared being targetted by the CPS bureacrats for rocking the boat. There is simply not ANY oversight for these people if they do get targetted. The last line of defence in such situations is to appeal to the Chief and Council. (who may have insitgated such a thing in the first place) If said parents try to contact the Minister they are told "that's an internal band matter" - and they can't interfere. I even know of one case on a different reserve where a case was going like this - where a DIA bureacrat even laughed at a parent who had been victim of this and said "Well - you want self-government don't you? There it is. Deal with it"

Look... I understand why Non-Natives are pissed off at being tax-serfs to pay for this insane 8 billion dollar mess run by the DIA. I understand why non-natives think that natives problems are self-caused. They are in many instances. The problem is - the cost for trying to work from within to change things is a pretty perilous occupation. The kinds of actions that the band government can take to quash dissent is just overwhelming to most people. In the non-native world there are all sorts of legal remedies to the kinds of crap that band governments will pull. No such remedies exist for natives. This is made worse by the fact that if you do speak out - your extended family will often suffer the consequences if they can't do anything to you personally. Family members who may work for the band may get a pink-slip or be harrassed at work. Benefits may be denied to others. Discretionary funds which are supposed to be equally available to all band members for things like education simply aren't distributed to the "loud-mouths" or any of their supporters. Then - cash bonuses, plum jobs or appointment to honoraria disbursing comittees are handed out like candy to those who will rebuke "trouble-makers".

I'm frankly amazed that in 6 years we've managed to get 10% of the voting membership of our reserve on side openly. The ONLY solution that I can see is to develop enough economic growth, so that band members dependent on the band can have jobs in the private sector - and therfore not ever have be beholden to the band for their well-being or for that of their families.

It's a horrible thing to watch generations of people whom you are closely related to consigned to generational dependency and soviet-style government running their lives.

They can't do anything to me and my immediate family - including my son, so long as we don't live on reserve. They can't disrupt the adoption of our daughter now. Far too late, the adoption is final and the adoption records are now completely sealed. I would go to jail before revealing identifying information about my daughter's adoptive parents and I don't think I could be compelled to answer by such methods in any event.

But I appreciate your sentiment.

Posted by: MWW | 2004-07-22 3:22:51 PM

Hi there

I am one of the co-founders of a group known as Forever Searching. We are in the process of developing a web-site dedicated to missing children, showing their photos and telling their stories. We would like permission to show Tamra on our site and include her in our Team USA appeal letter. We would also like to extend an invite, for the family to join our group as an honorary members; this will give them the opportunity to provide direction and guidance via our private forum. Please feel free to take a look at our site to see what we are about and what we do.
We would love to help in any way we can, if this message could be relayed to Tamras family we would be very grateful.

Hope to speak very soon.

Kindest regards
Adelle - www.foreversearching.com

Posted by: Forever Searching | 2008-02-20 3:41:15 AM

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