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If you think this is about YOU, maybe you should go reconcile with your parent and work to get back your kids instead of continuing to be a jerk. If you think I am you, or similar to you, welcome! :-)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

21st Century Girl Scouts-- And no, Planned Parenthood is not involved!

It isn't easy leading Girl Scouts in the 21st century. Sure, we now have spreadsheets that tally dues and badge requirements, not to mention the glories of the Internet. It's still difficult, just the same.

I am an old Girl Scout, as well as a former Camp Fire Girl. Notice that is Camp Fire GIRL, and not just a member of Camp Fire, the modern version. 

The Girl Scout program of the 1960s and early 70s was solid, no-nonsense scouting. The promise hadn't changed much since 1912. The uniforms were pretty standard, with the Junior level outfit created in the 1930s. Everybody in the troop wore the same thing, and there was no deviation. The badges were changed now and then, but the basic badges and their requirements were spelled out in clear, concise language.  

I left Cadettes in high school because frankly, I outgrew it. Explorers, a coed program run by the Boy Scouts of America, was where I next hung my membership hat. It had better camping, boys, job skills to learn, boys, better awards and boys. Did I mention the two Explorer posts to which I belonged had boys? 

One post was sponsored by a major metropolitan newspaper (but not advised by Clark Kent, sadly). What I learned there dove-tailed nicely with my Journalism, Print Shop and Computer Programming (Fortran IV) classes at school. I had my photo in an ad the post designed, showing us using various tools. I took the L to the Loop and back to attend meetings. These meetings often included lunch and snacks purchased by our sponsoring organization.

The other post was sponsored by a Catholic parish, and was supposed to be related to law enforcement, even had a cop as the advisor (Yes, advisor with an o). In truth, we did very little police activity. We did do some coed camping. It was the 70s. We threw parties, dated the boys, and didn't do much else. My parents wanted me in that post because it was parish sponsored and close to home, as a condition of being in the other. Let me tell you, the newspaper post was far safer, parish sponsorship of the other or not. 

Girl Scouting popped up again with my eldest, who didn't like the program of the 1980s and 90s. Who could blame her? 

Girl Scouts had gone eco and touchy-feely. The promise and laws had been rewritten to sound more akin to cult dogma than Girl Scouts. "I will do my best: to be honest, 
to be fair, to help where I am needed,
to be cheerful, to be friendly and considerate, to be a sister to every Girl Scout, to respect authority, to use resources wisely, to protect and improve the world around me, to show respect for myself and others through my words and actions." Feeeeelings, woah, woah woah, feeeeeeeelings...

Oh, um, yes, the uniforms had pieces, not standardization. The brag was that the uniform pieces had been created by top designers. It was...OK. It was not what girls were wearing then, but the Intermediate/ Junior uniform of my era wasn't, either. They even changed the Girl Scout pin, worn by all invested Girl Scouts and leaders. 

Between the touchy-feely atmosphere, and the uniforms, it just didn't work for my Eldest. I let her leave after a year of Brownies. 

Flash-forward to 2004, and Belle was asking about something called Daisies. Seems Girl Scouts USA had scooped up all the Kindergarten girls into troops to have something to do. It involved handbooks that required no reading. The girls earned petals. They needed a leader. Guess who? It seemed GSUSA calmed down a bit, changed the promise and law (again), and offered better training. The "real" pin was back as an option. OK. I was in. 

By the time Baby was ready for Daisies, there were no Daisies to be had at her school. Everybody had other plans. That was OK though, because Belle was in Brownies, and I was the leader, as the Eldest flaked out on yet something else, being the Brownie leader. Baby could read in Kindergarten, so the other leader and I just registered her as a Brownie.  

Girl Scouts USA has undergone some significant changes again. We now have a curriculum; not handbooks, but a curriculum, just like school. We thought we were getting neat-o new handbooks, the Girl's Guide to Scouting, with all the badges on handy-dandy sheets in a binder with a magnetic clasp. 

Instead, we got some of the badges in the binder, but not all of the badges. Those are in activity packs, to correspond to Journeys. JOURNEYS! ARG! They are touchy-feely and allegedly written to how girls speak current idiomatic English. National didn't consult leaders. Once again, they consulted alleged experts. Educators. 

Will I agree that Girl Scouts tends to be led on the national level by those with a more liberal agenda? Yes. Most leaders do not like it. 

I saw it the other day on Facebook. It seems the First Lady involved herself in Girl Scouts and fitness, even though her daughters aren't members. http://blog.girlscouts.org/2011/09/help-first-lady-michelle-obama-and.html The comments were fast and furious on Facebook, and they weren't happy. The woman in charge of the GSA Facebook page seemed puzzled at that. 

Nobody I know is thrilled with the Journeys. Journey mean buying extra books, extra badge pages, and extra work. They are too structured, too much like school, without a lot of requirement to actually learn skills. I've heard "dumbed down" in some circles, but to me, more like launching pads, add your own material as necessary (and it is necessary). Our troop was not thrilled to open the pretty new Cadette books and find that a whole different packet had to be purchased just to complete the Babysitter badge. 

Then there is the big pro-life controversy, which begs the question: Is it OK to lie about an organization simply because you think it presents itself as too liberal? 

That's the circumstances of the debate that rages in pro-life circles, Catholic and otherwise. I can tell you now that GSUSA has NO affiliation with Planned Parenthood, no matter who says so. The National Catholic Council for Girl Scouts and Camp Fire (NCCGSCF) has repeatedly stated that sex ed isn't taught without parental permission period, that there are no Girl Scout leaders sneaking girls off to obtain birth control or abortions, yada, yada, yada. 

Conspiracy theorists don't want to hear it. They keep painting GSUSA as a bunch of radical feminists out to make girls promiscuous, homosexual and then drag them into abortion clinics.  These theorists, who claim inside knowledge, have yet to explain to me how this lesbian sex in which all Girl Scouts and their leaders are allegedly engaged leads to pregnancy.

What are the alternatives to Girl Scouts in the US? Well, there's American Heritage Girls. It's a good group, but it isn't Girl Scouts, and again, there's the ministry factor, the Christian basis, leaving out other religions. There's Camp Fire; good, but again, not Girl Scouts. There is a council in the area. However, Camp Fire now has a curriculum, too, more for afterschool under the guidance of a teacher or aide, and it's coed, even the smallest Little Star (no more Bluebirds). They do offer camping. Camp Tialaka is no longer there, they have a couple resident camps. 

It's been suggested by various people that Little Flowers, Sunbeams, Missionettes AKA Girls Ministries, Beehives and Mia Maids might be an alternative. These are organizations specific to Catholicism, the Salvation Army (which is pro-choice BTW), various Protestant denominations but mostly Assembly of God, and the LDS (Mormon) church. Not everybody is welcome in every group. I have never seen life skills or camping skills taught in Little Flowers; virtues, etiquette, doctrine, yes, but not the other stuff. Rainbow Girls? Rainbow Girls is also more like a sorority, in that a girl can apply, but doesn't necessarily mean she'll get accepted. It's an affiliate of the Masons, though I'm told having a male family member who is a Mason is no longer necessary. 

I suppose we could do the 21st century thing and get a program or class for each thing the girls want to learn. But the camping? The sisterhood? The combined skills? At least the uniforms for girls from Cadettes through Ambassadors are once again standardized, even modern: Khaki "docker style" trousers or skirts, white polos, khaki vest of sash- if they choose to wear uniforms. For now, we'll stick with Girl Scouts. 

There's always Venturing and Exploring, when they turn 14, where I fully intend to be a leader of some sort. I still remember those days, and teen hormones merit some kind of watch. 

Hey! I bet that makes me eligible to attend Wood Badge! Finally! Can't wait!

NOTE: Since I wrote this, the Salvation Army has stated for the record that they are pro-life, but will not turn away women who have had abortions. I'm good with that. :-) Go check out the Salvation Army site if you want more information. I have also emailed my local archdiocese office on Scouting, and received an email reply from the scouting chaplain. He assured me that, against the opinion of the naysayers, Catholic girls will not be considered in the state of mortal sin for being Girl Scouts; quite the contrary. He emphasized the religious medals and books Catholic Girl Scouts can earn. He also repeated that Girl Scouts has no affiliation with Planned Parenthood, does NOT give money to organizations on the national level, and that troops largely form their own program. I would suggest that those who have problems with scouting in a religious context contact their church leadership, and that every Catholic who bad-mouths Girl Scouts contacts their local scouting chaplain for more counsel. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Feelin' like the Lone Ranger sans Tonto...

Another friend put four of her children into a school. She and her husband do not make decisions lightly in this regard. It's a good school, and I'm sure her intelligent children will have a happy stay there. 

But she is the fifth friend this year to put at least one child back in school from homeschooling, and the third to place almost all of her brood in a school setting. I am feeling as if I am the Lone Ranger, out on the range sans Tonto, cooking beans by the campfire, sleeping lightly in case I'm attacked by the bad guys, hand on the pearl-handled pistol in my holster.

Everybody has their reasons why they choose a particular academic environment for their children. I know at least one of these families went with school for economic reasons, so both parents could work full time. One family did it for health reasons, the health of the mother. One family did it because the homeschool environment was causing what they felt were sloppy work habits in the children, to the point where a brick-and-mortar school was going to teach the children about how good they had it at home. The others choose to keep their reasons private. They have their reasons, good ones. 

We have our reasons for continuing to homeschool. 

I have cash, at present. I now live in a community where I can get around on beautiful bifurcated buses that run on natural gas, saving money on a second car. The buses are beautiful, but the public schools are well, working their way up from years of decline. 

In each of these cases, I'm older than the mothers in question; in fact, I'm old enough to be their mother. Being an older mother has its advantages, for once. Again, having saved money over time, as well as decades of learning home economics first-hand, I can cut back to the bone and still homeschool, which some young families simply can't do and stay ahead of the bouncing finances. I might not be as healthy or robust as younger moms, but I make up for it with brisk walks, vitamins and a daily nap. Bike riding is coming along slowly, but it is coming along.   

The Mister has a graduate degree, as well as undergrad in another field. His teaching style has vastly improved since the days he taught various classes for a corporation (Our Eldest and the Boy will remember those days and shudder). Not that it's necessary to homeschool- and can be a hindrance at times- but I've had elementary classroom experience, and some experience with middle school as well. Both of us have extensive experience with technology, which is indeed helpful in 21st century academics, wherever those academics might be held and taught by whomever. When it comes to academics and technology, we have it covered, continuing to keep up on the latest in both fields. 

So far this year- and remember we hold school all year, no summer break- I've only had to nudge Belle a few times to work. Baby not only does the work willingly, but comes up with extra projects on her own. The projects are admittedly not what one would see in a classroom, but they are learning experiences just the same. 

Who knows how much Internet research experience as well as post-1960s history Baby learned during her Clint Eastwood phase?  How much comedic timing and speech delivery she learned in Lucille Ball/ Fran Drescher phase? For that matter, Belle accomplished a great deal during her infatuation with High School Musical, on the piano as well as voice. We all still learn a lot from Pawn Stars, Modern Marvels, Green Screen Adventures, Extreme Couponing, MythBusters and Who Do You Think You Are

Still, I am sure Belle and Baby could easily pass whatever test to go to the gifted school or a magnet. We would want more information on the program, and that currently isn't as forthcoming as it should be. The one Catholic school worth the money and transition experience has no room for Belle, and would put Baby in her grade of age, not her current academic grade, despite test results to the contrary. The other Catholic school offers a safe haven for kids who would otherwise go to public school in a rough neighborhood, but academically and technically isn't what our kids need. Would it be in their best interest to send them back to school now?

The Mister and I can only pray for guidance, and continue to do what we do for their benefit. That's the gist of raising children, their benefit, "the best interest of the children" when it comes to bringing them up to be responsible adults. For now, God has made it clear: Homeschool, alone or with others. Who are we to argue? There are obvious reasons to do so. 

God has His plans, and apparently His for us is to continue to homeschool, even if I feel I am the Lone Ranger at his lone campfire eating beans and drinking coffee alone, excepting the kids, the Mister, and of course God. God's plans for other families is school; some public, some private, all brick-and-mortar.

Good luck and good schooling, friends! You're doing what's right for your kids, and we're doing what's right for ours. It's wonderful that we live in a country where those differences don't exclude us from each other's lives, allowing us to follow the path God has chosen for our families.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Are you SURE you're enough part Native American? Better check with the tribe!

Once upon a time, a long time ago, oh, about 1978, the Indian Child Welfare Act or ICWA was passed. It was amended in 2003. Its purpose was to stop Native American children from being swept off the reservation and into adoptive homes where they would not be taught the ways of their heritage. The reason for federal legislation was alleged rampant removal of children from reservations and into foster and adoptive homes off the reservations.

During the late 19th century, and through a part of the 20th century, that was no doubt true. There was many a school opened by  more than one Protestant group specifically as a boarding school without parental visitation to make such children assimilate into the culture of the US without reenforcing their native culture, to the point where their prior names were taken from them and given "real" names, American names. Oh yes. They were also taught a trade. For their own good, of course (cough, cough). Breaking up families in the name of God and the US. 

For further in-depth study on such circumstances, I highly recommend you read the Education of Little Tree. If you liked that, follow up with the Bean Trees, followed by Pigs in Heaven.

Let's move on to the 21st century. The various tribes have all this great land, and their own government. They've gotten into businesses to make revenue to share with their tribal members. Casinos, yes, but also hotels, shops, restaurants, fishing tours, high impact outdoors adventures! With all that revenue, suddenly people were popping out of the woodwork, claiming tribal membership.

The idea of the majority of full-blooded Native Americans living on the reservation, trading in wampum, eating buffalo and riding war ponies out to the edge of their designated-by-the-federal-government tribal lands is about as outdated as corsets and buggy whips.  The various members of various tribes have married into many European and African families. You may even be part Indian of some sort and not know it. 

What do these two things have to do with each other? It seems everybody is suddenly an Indian, at least partially on his mother's side, or his father's, or both but different tribes. It sadly also seems the ICWA can be used to scare custodial grandparents who may not know better into giving up custody of their grandchildren to avoid putting them through the emotions of a trial, or the alternative idea of spending their lives on the reservation as wards of the tribe, bereft of their other family; not to mention spending one's life savings to protect those grandchildren. It can mean many a sleepless night for an uninformed and frightened custodial grandparent. 

Of course, I'm not an attorney, and I don't even play one on TV (old joke). But I consulted a couple of attorneys on the matter, and asked some questions of the various tribes as well as the National Indian Child Welfare Association, or NICWA.

First, baby daddies and mamas who are irresponsible still don't get automatic custody based on ethnicity. If they are addicts of some sort, or have issues such as bipolar disorder, don't plan on them to get their acts together enough to hire a lawyer and file a proper case. The chances of that happening are remote. If they were that capable, the odds are good they would still have the kids, and wouldn't be threatening you. Besides, they would have to find a source for money to pay for it, or somebody to represent them pro bono (free). They would have to go to a court and prove that they are the people who should be raising the children in the children's best interests. Don't worry.

Second, just because Lulabelle hooked up with Johnny Big Snake and he is the defacto or even legal stepfather, doesn't mean he has some sort of rights to the grandkids because he is Native American. Those children share no blood heritage with him. It also works the same way if Johnny is Johnie, even if she claims to be an Indian princess. This goes even if they create a biological half-sibling or more to the brood you're raising now. 

Third, and possibly the most important, is the question: Is the person who suddenly wants these children claiming Indian heritage really an Indian; specifically, is he or she a tribal member who is recognized as being a prescribed percentage of Native American blood, as designated by the tribe in question?

Each tribe sets their own standards, namely who is a tribal member, and who is not. Honorary membership from attending a powwow or other tribal festival or ritual doesn't count for any tribe. Further, what counts for the Five Civilized Tribes doesn't count for the Navajo, and what counts for the Cherokee doesn't count for the Seminole, and certainly not for the Osage or any Apache or Aleut for that matter. It's just not that easy to prove one is entitled to tribal citizenship.

I can say, on the whole, the tribes are looking at bloodlines; in other words, genealogy. Applicants have to prove they are what they say, not simply say it. The Oklahoma Cherokee, for example, want strong proof, listing on the Dawes or other rolls of ancestors; original birth certificates , not just for applicants but their parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents; former addresses and anything else to back up the application, including DNA tests. The process takes no less than 10 months, and often 12 months or more.

Adults must apply for membership. This means just because your ex-husband has gotten a sudden yen to discover his heritage and applies for tribal membership with significant proof, your adult son is not automatically a tribal member. Junior has to submit his own paperwork. 

Percentage counts as well, when considering whether or not the grandkids are Native American.  This list indicates a wide variety of coverage, from 1/8 to any degree of kinship. When you hear the term "quantum bloodline" that's what is meant.

There are organizations, such as the United Cherokee Nation, that are clubs for those claiming Indian bloodlines. These clubs are not official organizations recognized by the tribes or the United States as tribes, for purposes of verifying tribal membership, and they usually don't claim to be. Therefore, a membership card to some organization doesn't necessarily prove tribal membership. 

Even if the alleged parent has a Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood and a tribal citizenship card, there is still the question of whether or not the grandkids are Indian, if not by percentage, then by tribal registry. If you have custody, especially if they have already been adopted by you, you control whether or not they can be registered with the nation in question. Parental rights might have been terminated, whether by the biological parent's own choice or through declaring him and/or her unfit. Birth certificates have been changed. In many states, the adoption was closed, and therefore the files on the case have been impounded or sealed.  Hopefully, you have moved from your previous residence and are careful in giving out your address and phone number. Again, it seems like a lot of hard work for individuals (the adult children) who can barely function or earn money legally, to go chasing you down with the tribal court as a weapon.

Finally, the ICWA concerns exclusive jurisdiction over Indian children ONLY where those children who are domiciled or reside on the tribe's land, or are wards of the court or the tribe. That means IF the children were under a very defined set of circumstances, then and only then would the tribal court in question be the court of choice. The chances of your adult child's partner in creating Life going to this extreme, or of your grandchildren being in such circumstances, are very slim. 

In all other circumstances, the state courts have concurrent jurisdiction. Again, under very prescribed circumstances for jurisdiction, there is a choice of whether to proceed in tribal or state court. There are plenty of reasons not to use tribal courts and to object to them, two of which where the children over the age of 12 who are the subject of the proceeding choose the local court (the kids who are involved don't want tribal court), and where it would cause a burden of expense to use tribal courts.

In instances where grandparents are raising grandchildren, and where the tribal court chooses custody and guardianship, extended family is the first choice by law. Yes, the whole thing might have to be decided again, but the parent in question still has to prove he or she is up to the task of taking care of the children in question. The grandkids won't simply be removed from your home and care, flopped on the reservation and made wards of the tribe in question simply on your adult child's baby parent's word alone.

Finally, in circumstances where custody, guardianship or adoption have already been completed, the tribes are reluctant to uproot a child for no other reason than the child might have Indian bloodlines. This is especially true if you knew nothing of this alleged Indian bloodline prior to the custodial circumstances, especially adoption.

If Junior or Lulabelle threaten you with "Indian court" in a fit of rage, substance-induced or not; if you hear from your previously irresponsible ex-spouse, who was deemed by a court an unfit parent back in the day, that he is considering taking custody from you, based on his new found Indian heritage (especially if he's never met the children); if you catch wind through the extended family grapevine that So-And-So said this-n-that when talking with your adult child; if you read on your adult child's Facebook page that he's taken up with a genuine Kickapoo Princess and their alliance will win back custody of the kids, and with it his entitlement to food stamps, welfare money and your retirement check; RELAX. Until you have a summons in hand, nothing has happened. The possibility is good nothing will happen. If you do receive real legal paperwork, the odds are with you, and you will find the best legal representation you can afford.   

(Special thanks to the Cherokee Nation, whose representatives answered so many questions so patiently for absolutely free!)