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Family must give back adopted son

Published December 13, 2008 6:31 pm

Goodbye » Court rules American Indian baby must return to tribe.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A South Jordan family plans to fight a court decision forcing them to give up their adopted American Indian son.

Heather and Clint Larson adopted Talon at birth about six months ago, but Sunday they will hand him off to a representative from the Leech Lake Band of the Ojibwe in Minnesota.

"It's worse than a death," Heather Larson said. "With a death, at least you have closure. You know your child can't be hurt anymore. We probably will never know what has happened to him."

The birth mother decided to put her baby up for adoption with Farmington-based Heart and Soul Adoptions director Denise Garza. "She found us," Garza said. "Things went really well."

The woman came to Salt Lake City to have the baby and relinquished custody within 24 hours of the birth. Talon was born addicted to drugs, Heather Larson said, and she and her husband spent several days in the hospital as he was nursed back to health.

A few days after the birth, they found out the birth mother had changed her mind, and her tribe was supporting her. The Leech Lake Band of the Ojibwe cited the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law designed to keep American Indian children with native families.

A tribal court decided that Talon should come back, and last week a Salt Lake City Judge decided "she did not have the authority to override the tribe," Heather Larson said.

Frank Bibeau, an attorney for the Tribal council, said in an interview with KUTV news that Talon belongs with his tribe.

"The child is not the Larsons, and the Larsons are not Indian as far as I know and this is an Indian child," he told KUTV.

But his mother has been declared unfit and has lost custody of her other four children, Larson said. Once at the reservation, he will likely go into foster care, she said.

The Larsons are planning a rally to support their fight at 5:30 p.m. Sunday at their South Jordan home. The handoff is planned for 6 p.m. Sunday , either at their home or the police station.

lwhitehurst@sltrib.com