The Sixties Scoop


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The 60s Scoop refers to the adoption of First Nation/Metis children in Canada between the years of 1960 and the mid 1980’s. This period is unique in the annals of adoption. This phenomenon, coined the “60’s Scoop”, is so named because the highest numbers of adoptions took place in the decade of the 1960s and because, in many instances, children were literally scooped from their homes and communities without the knowledge or consent of families and bands. Many First Nations charged that in many cases where consent was not given, that government authorities and social workers acted under the colonialistic assumption that native people were culturally inferior and unable to adequately provide for the needs of the children. Many First Nations people believe that the forced removal of the children was a deliberate act of genocide.

Statistics from the Department of Indian Affairs reveal a total of 11,132 status Indian children adopted between the years of 1960 and 1990. It is believed, however, that the actual numbers are much higher than that. While Indian Affairs recorded adoptions of ‘status’ native children, many native children were not recorded as ‘status’ in adoption or foster care records. Indeed, many ‘status’ children were not recorded as status after adoption. Of these children who were adopted, 70% were adopted into non-native homes. Interestingly, of this latter group, the breakdown rate for these transracial adoptions is also 70%!.

Many of the adoptees, who are now adults, are seeking to reunite with birth families and communities. A substantial portion of these adoptees face cultural and identity confusion issues as the result of having been socialized and acculturated into a euro-Canadian middle-class society. For transracial adoptees, identity issues may be worsened by other problems arising during the search and reunion experience. As one author put it, the identity issues of adoptees may be compounded by being reacquainted with one of the most marginalized and oppressed group in North American society.

There are many adult adoptees searching for families, and families searching for adoptees. As a result, several First Nation/aboriginal reunification programs have sprouted up in Canada. These links are available below, and some have toll-free numbers. For adoptees who are not sure where their roots are, calling any of the agencies can be a first step. They will direct you to an agency or band or provincial post-adoption office that can help. Although Saskatchewan currently does not have a Native repatriation program, Saskatchewan Social Services has a part-time Repat worker who can assist at Post Adoption Registry, 1920 Broad Street, Regina, SK S4P 3V6, (306)787-3654 or 1-800-667-7539.

For many adoptees and birth families, it has been beneficial to utilize the services of experienced Repatriation workers. These individuals can assist all parties in the emotional and psychological preparation for reunion.

By Dr. Raven Sinclair

For more information see article by Dr. Raven Sinclair
Identity Lost and Found: Lessons from the Sixties Scoop

A short reference list of of Scoop material:

Bagley, C., Young, L., & Scully, A. (1993). International and transracial adoptions: A mental health perspective. Northern Social Work Practice, Northern and Regional Studies Series, Volume 4.116-135.

Fanshel, D. (1972). Far from the reservation: the transracial adoption of American Indian children. New Jersey: The Scarecrow Press. 116-135.

Fournier, S. & Crey, E. (1997). Stolen from our embrace: The abduction of First Nations children and the restoration of Aboriginal communities. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre.

Gilchrist, L. (1995). Urban survivors, Aboriginal street youth: Vancouver, Winnipeg & Montreal. Research report presented to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, January, 1995.

Hall, L. (Speaker – Vancouver, BC 93-06-02 13).(1995). For seven generations: An information legacy of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Libraxus Inc.

Kimelman, Judge E.C. (1985). No quiet place: Review committee on Indian and Metis adoption and placements. Manitoba Community Services.

Lyslo, A. (1960). Adoption for American Indian Children. Child Welfare, 39(6). June 1960. 32-33.

Lyslo, A. (1961). Adoptive placement of American Indian children with non-Indian families. Child Welfare, 40(5). May 1961. 4-6.

McRoy, R., Zucher, L.,Lauderdale, M. & Anderson, R. (1983). The identity of transracial adoptees. Social Casework: The Journal of Contemporary Social Work, 65. 576-583.

Richard, K. (1998). A submission on the matter of cross cultural aboriginal adoption. Unpublished paper submitted to the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal. (Available from Toronto Native Child & Family Services).

Sinclair, Judge M., Phillips, D. & Bala, N. (1991). Aboriginal Child Welfare in Canada. Bala, J., Hornick, J.P. & Vogl, R. (1991). Canadian Child Welfare Law: Children, Families and the State. Toronto: Thompason Educational Publishing. 171-194.

Sobol, M. & Daly, K. (1993). Adoption in Canada: Final Report. National Adoption Study, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario.

Stevenato & Associates, J. Budgell. (1998). Aboriginal Healing & Wellness Strategy Research Project: Repatriation of Aboriginal families. Toronto: Author. (Available through Toronto Native Child & Family Services.)

Ward, M. (1984). The adoption of Native Canadian children. Cobalt, Ontario: Highway Bookshop.