Federal Law Gives Tribe Ruling in Baby Talon's Fate

Six months ago, Utah couple Clint and Heather Larson adopted a baby boy named Talon who was born with drugs in his system and nursed him back to health.

The baby's biological mother is a member of the Leech Lake band of the Ojibwe American Indian tribe. A few months later, the tribe went to court, saying the mother had changed her mind and wanted the baby back -- a legitimate claim, they say, under the federal Indian Child Welfare Act.

So Sunday evening, with tears streaming down her face, Heather Larson surrendered Talon to the tribe.

"We don't understand," she told "Good Morning America" today. "The only thing we care about is Talon's welfare. ... But imagine your child being taken from you. And you may never see them again. And you may never know where they are. And you may never know if they're safe, if they're being fed, if they're being cared for."

VIDEO: Heather and Clint Larson on GMA.
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According to Frank Bibeau, the tribe's lawyer and member, the fight is about his tribe's self-preservation, which is why the law was written to give American Indians more leeway in reversing adoptions.

"Congress put the law into effect because of the detriment and destruction to our culture and to our people and to our future existence because we are losing so many children," Bibeau said.

But the Larsons told "GMA" that they will appeal the decision to try and get back Talon, whom they still call their son.

According to the act, which was passed in 1978, its intent was to "protect the best interests of Indian children and promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families" -- an intent that the Larsons say is not served in this case.

"His biological parents have been deemed by the state and by the tribe as unfit," Heather Larson said. "And he will not go back to them. To take them out of a stable home, where he has been nursed from a drug addiction, forced upon him at birth."

Native American Adoption

Talon will likely enter an American Indian foster family, where his two biological siblings already live.

"He's not only Indian," Heather Larson said. "He has Caucasian blood. He has Mexican blood. As important as it is for him to learn his heritage, it's just as important if not more that he's cared for and loved."

According to the National Indian Child Welfare Association, Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act "in response to the alarmingly high number of Indian children being removed from their homes by both public and private agencies."

"This is who we are. We've been here forever. We're down to 7,000 people on our reservation. We have to make the best of what we have and go forward. We need all of our people. We can't afford to lose anyone," Bibeau said.

The Larsons, however, do not see Talon as anyone's but theirs.

"He's our son. He always will be even if we don't get him back," Clint Larson said. "He's ours."

"He does not have our blood running in his veins, but he does have our hearts," Heather Larson said.

The Larsons have set up a trust in Talon's name with Wells Fargo called "For Benefit of Talon Larson." More information on the trust can be found by calling (801) 304-9386.

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