Who Should Be Allowed To Adopt Native American Children?

Native American tribes got a big win in August when a federal court upheld the Indian Child Welfare Act, a pivotal 1978 law that requires states to prioritize placing Native children in foster or adoptive homes with Native families over non-Native families.  But the decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals … Read more

Tribal families get priority in Native American adoptions. An appeals court will decide whether that’s fair.

In the 40 years since Congress enacted the Indian Child Welfare Act, the law has been criticized in legal challenges that have climbed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. But the ICWA, as the act is known, has always prevailed. Now its constitutionality is being questioned again. On Thursday, the U.S. Court of … Read more

‘We’re under attack’: Tribes defend Indian Child Welfare Act in critical case

After initially deciding the closely-watched case in favor of Indian Country, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals announced that it will hear the dispute all over again. A larger set of judges will now scrutinize the landmark law but tribal nations remain confident that their sovereign rights and their most precious resource — their children — will win … Read more

Fifth Circuit to Rehear Indian Child Welfare Act Challenge

Today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued an order directing a challenge to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) to be reheard en banc — before the entire Fifth Circuit. As previously reported, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit had held ICWA Constitutional in August, finding it was not a race-based statute that would violate the … Read more

US Supreme Court declines to hear Oglala, Rosebud case against South Dakota officials

The Supreme Court didn’t give a reason it declined to hear the case that began in 2013, when the Oglala and Rosebud Sioux Tribes and three parents in Pennington County brought a class action lawsuit against state Department of Social Services and Pennington County officials.The American Civil Liberties Union, representing the tribes and parents, alleged that Native American … Read more

Commentary: Appeals Court Affirms Indigenous Children Belong to a Political Class, not Racial

In the 21st century, we are still fighting to protect indigenous children whether it is north or south of the Mexican border. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decision to uphold the Indian Child Welfare Act was a critical step to keep our families, communities and identities intact. Now, some legal protections need to be … Read more

Fifth Circuit Court Rules that ICWA is Constitutional (Brackeen v. Bernhardt)

United States: Fifth Circuit Upholds Indian Child Welfare Act As Constitutional. Akin Gump (Aug. 14, 2019) Federal District Court of Appeals Upholds Indian Child Welfare Act. Nonprofit Quarterly (Aug. 13, 2019) EDITORIAL: ICWA ruling a victory for tribes. Tahlequah Daily Press. (Aug. 13, 2019) Fifth Circuit Court reaffirms Indian Child Welfare is constitutional. The Ada … Read more

How a Right-Wing Attack on Protections for Native American Children Could Upend Indian Law

A LAW KEY  to preventing state welfare agencies from separating Indigenous children from their families is at risk of being overturned thanks to the yearslong effort of a network of libertarian and right-wing organizations. In the 1970s, between a quarter and a third of Indigenous children across the United States had been removed from their … Read more

Who Can Adopt a Native American Child? A Texas Couple vs. 573 Tribes

Zachary, or A.L.M. as he is called in legal papers, has a Navajo birth mother, a Cherokee birth father and adoptive parents, Jennifer and Chad Brackeen, neither of whom is Native American. The Brackeens are challenging a federal law governing Native American children in state foster care: It requires that priority to adopt them be given to Native families, to … Read more

US Supreme Court Denies Review of Arizona Child Welfare Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has denied review of an Arizona case challenging a law that gives preference to American Indians in adoptions of Native children.The order last week leaves in place a lower court ruling that dismissed a complaint from a Phoenix-based, right-leaning think tank. Read the full article at the Navajo-Hopi Observer. Read related … Read more

Navajo Nation v. Department of Child Safety, April 18, 2019 (Court of Appeals of Arizona)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: After child, a member of a Native American tribe, was removed from biological mother’s care by Department of Child Safety, mother moved to appoint child’s foster placement, who was not affiliated with child’s family or tribe or any Native American organization, as child’s permanent guardian, and tribe indicated that mother or … Read more

Mitchell v. Preston, April 16,2019 (Supreme Court of Wyoming)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: Following extensive litigation in child custody action, 2018 WY 110, 426 P.3d 830, father, an Indian tribe member who kept child on reservation, filed motion to establish jurisdiction in tribal court and motion for change of venue, seeking an order relinquishing permanent child custody jurisdiction to the tribal court. Mother, who was … Read more

Matter of Guardianship I.L.J.E., December 12, 2018 (Supreme Court of South Dakota)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: Brother and sister-in-law of mother killed by child’s father petitioned for guardianship of child, but father requested that his sister, a Native American, be appointed guardian of child, who was an enrolled member of a tribe. The Circuit Court, Third Judicial Circuit, Brookings County, Gregory J. Stoltenburg, J., granted brother and sister-in-law’s … Read more

In re Shirley T., January 3, 2019 (Supreme Judicial Court of Maine)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: In child protection proceeding involving children deemed to be Indian children under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), parents and Indian tribe moved to transfer jurisdiction of matter to Tribal Court. The Portland District Court, Powers, J., denied the motions. Parents appealed. Holding provided by Westlaw: The Supreme Judicial Court, Gorman, J., … Read more

In re Interest of Mercedes L., January 15, 2019 (Court of Appeals of Nebraska)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: In child protection proceedings, the County Court, Platte County, Frank J. Skorupa, J., approved a change in permanency objective for mother and each of her six minor children from reunification to guardianship. Mother appealed, and appeals were consolidated. Holdings provided by Westlaw: The Court of Appeals held that: 1) orders issued by … Read more

In re. L.D. v. M.J., January 24, 2019 (Court of Appeals of California)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: County department of family and children’s services filed juvenile dependency petition on behalf of nine-year-old child who may have Native Alaskan ancestry. The Superior Court, Santa Clara County, No. 17JD024833, Michael L. Clark, J., found sufficient notice was sent, pursuant to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), to Athabascan Indian tribe … Read more

In re Interest of Audrey T., January 29, 2019 (Court of Appeals of Nebraska)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: State filed an adjudication petition alleging that mother was unable to meet child’s basic needs for care and protection, mother used inappropriate discipline, and mother’s mental-health issues put child at risk of abuse and/or neglect. The County Court, Scotts Bluff County, James M. Worden, J., entered an order placing temporary custody of … Read more

Interest of D.E.D.I, January 31, 2019 (Court of Appeals of Texas)

Synopsis from Westlaw: Father appealed order of 446th District Court, Ector County, terminating his parental rights to Indian child. Holding from Westlaw: The Court of Appeals, Jim R. Wright, Senior Chief Justice, held that trial court was able to determine that Indian tribe’s representative was qualified as an expert witness. Affirmed. Read the full decision … Read more

Matter of S.R., February 21, 2019 (Supreme Judicial Court of Montana)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: Department of Public Health and Human Services petitioned to terminate mother’s parental rights to children. The District Court, Silver Bow County, Brad Newman, J., terminated rights. Mother appealed, arguing that District Court had possessed reason to know that children could have been eligible for tribal enrollment so as to trigger Indian Child … Read more

Appeals Court Hears Case on Adoptions of Native Americans

 1978 law giving preference to Native American families in foster care and adoption proceedings involving American Indian children is an unconstitutional race-based intrusion on state powers that has caused families to be “literally torn apart,” an attorney told a federal appeals court March 13.But supporters of the decades-old law say it’s needed to protect and … Read more

Stateline: Indian Child Welfare Act Likely Headed to Supreme Court

A case before a federal appeals court could upend an historic adoption law meant to combat centuries of brutal discrimination against American Indians and keep their children with families and tribal communities.For the first time, a few states have sued to overturn the federal Indian Child Welfare Act, which Congress enacted in 1978 as an antidote to … Read more

Fawn Sharp: The Attack on the Indian Child Welfare Act Cannot Stand & Louisiana Solicitor General Commentary “absurd and illogical”

With the fate of the Indian Child Welfare Act in the hands of a federal appeals courts, tribes and some states have come together to defend the law, which Congress enacted in 1978 to address the high rates of Indian children being taken from their families and their communities. Read the full opinion piece at the Indianz.com … Read more

Media Coverage of Fifth Circuit Hearing in Brackeen v. Bernhardt

Non-Indians think they know better than Indians what is best for Native American children, said lawyers for the Navajo Nation in arguments before a federal appeals court.It’s a bold argument, but goes to the heart of the case in Brackeen v. Bernhardt. Under the Indian Child Welfare Act, Indian tribes have priority over non-Indians in Native … Read more

2018 ICWA by the Numbers

There were 206 appealed ICWA cases this year, down 7 from last year. However, there were 50 reported cases this year, which is nearly 20 more than last year. As always, California leads the states with 125 cases, 9 were reported. Alaska is second with 11, 3 reported. Montana had 10, including 7 reported, which is up considerably … Read more

Overwhelming Support for ICWA

Joint Press Release from National Native Organizations on the Overwhelming Support for the Indian Child Welfare Act Available at https://www.narf.org/icwa-brackeen/. (Portland, Ore., January 18, 2019)—On Wednesday, January 16, 2019, 325 tribal nations, 57 Native organizations, 21 states, 31 child welfare organizations, Indian and constitutional law scholars, and seven members of Congress joined the United States … Read more

People in Interest of M.D., November 20,2018 (Supreme Court of South Dakota)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: Native American father’s parental rights to child were terminated, following dispositional hearing in the Second Judicial Circuit Court, Minnehaha County, Susan M. Sabers, J., and father appealed. Holdings provided by Westlaw: The Supreme Court, Gilbertson, C.J., held that:1) evidence did not support father’s claim that Department of Social Services (DSS) did not make … Read more

In re E.R., October 10, 2018 (Court of Appeal, Second District, Division 6, California.)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: After Nevada juvenile court declined to exercise further jurisdiction after initially sustaining Nevada Department of Family Services (DFS) juvenile dependency petition, California county human services agency (HSA) filed juvenile dependency petitions in California, alleging that mother and father were unable to care for and protect their infant children and repeated allegations … Read more

Matter of L.A.G., October 16, 2018 (Supreme Court of Minnesota)

Synopsis from Westlaw: Department of Public Health and Human Services filed petition for termination of mother’s parental rights as to her two minor children. Following termination hearing, the District Court, Cascade County, Nos. ADN 16-175 and ADN-16-176, Gregory G. Pinski, P.J., terminated mother’s parental rights. Mother appealed. Holdings from Westlaw: The Supreme Court, Beth Baker, J., … Read more

In re Adoption of Micah H., October 26, 2018 (Supreme Court of Nebraska)

October 26, 2018 Synopsis from Westlaw: Maternal grandparents and guardians of minor child brought petition seeking to terminate parental rights and to adopt the child whose mother was member of Indian tribe. The County Court, Saunders County, Patrick R. McDermott, J., denied petition. Grandparents appealed.The Supreme Court, 295 Neb. 213887 N.W.2d 859, reversed and remanded. On … Read more

Demetria H. v. State, October 5, 2018 (Supreme Court of Alaska)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: Department of Health and Social Services, Office of Children’s Services, (OCS) petitioned to terminate mother’s parental rights to Indian child. The Superior Court, Third Judicial District,Anchorage, Andrew Guidi, J., terminated mother’s parental rights, and she appealed.  Holdings provided by Westlaw: The Supreme Court, Carney, J., held that:1) evidence was sufficient to support trial court’s … Read more

In re N.G., September 21, 2018 (Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division 2, California.)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: After Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) sent Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) notices to the Blackfeet Tribe of Montana, the Navajo Nation, the Colorado River Indian Tribes, and the Colorado River Tribal Council, the Superior Court, Riverside County, No. RIJ1100389, Jean P. Leonard, Retired Judge, sitting by assignment, terminated mother’s parental rights. … Read more

In re Beers, September 11, 2018 (Court of Appeals of Michigan)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: A petition to terminate mother and father’s parental rights was filed. The Circuit Court, Family Division, Eaton County,No. 15-019320-NA, terminated mother and father’s parental rights. Parents appealed.  Holdings provided by Westlaw: The Court of Appeals, Murphy, P.J., held that:1) the trial court erred in failing to apply the Michigan Indian Family Preservation Act (MIFPA) … Read more

People in Interest of M.D., November 20, 2018 (Supreme Court of South Dakota)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: Native American father’s parental rights to child were terminated, following dispositional hearing in the Second Judicial Circuit Court, Minnehaha County, Susan M. Sabers, J., and father appealed. Holdings provided by Westlaw: The Supreme Court, Gilbertson, C.J., held that:1) evidence did not support father’s claim that Department of Social Services (DSS) did not make … Read more

Brackeen v. Zinke, October 4, 2018 (United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Fort Worth Division)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: Foster and adoptive parents and states of Texas,Louisiana, and Indiana brought action against United States, United States Department of the Interior and its Secretary, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA)and its Director, BIA Principal Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs,Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and its Secretary seeking declaration that Indian … Read more

Indian Child Welfare Act Remains in Force after Appeals Court Order (Brackeen v. Zinke)

A federal appeals court granted a stay requested by the four tribes on Monday to preserve the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act. “The law is going to stay the same for now,” said Dan Lewerenz, one of the attorneys working on the Brackeen v. Zinke case. That means Native American families will stay together under the law. Read … Read more

Responses to ICWA Court Ruling

Treppa: Why the ICWA is critical to the health of native children and tribal communities SHERRY TREPPA POSTED ON WEDNESDAY, 24 OCTOBER 2018 A Texas judge’s recent decision to strike down the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA, sets a dangerous precedent that unravels federal policy carefully designed to correct centuries of tragic injustices committed … Read more

Court Strikes Down Landmark Indian Child Welfare Act Ruling

A federal appeals court has delivered a major blow to tribes and parents who have been seeking stronger enforcement of the Indian Child Welfare Act in South Dakota.The Oglala Sioux Tribe, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and three Indian parents went to court more than five years ago, alarmed by the large numbers of Indian children being taken from their families. They … Read more

Matter of D.E. August 7, 2018 (Montana)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: In child protection proceedings, the District Court, Second Judicial District, Butte/Silver Bow County, Nos. DN-15-75-BN and DN-15-76-BN, Brad Newman, J., terminated mother’s parental rights with respect to two children. Mother appealed, and appeals were consolidated. Holdings provided by Westlaw: The Supreme Court, Gustafson, J., held that: 1) Department of Public Health … Read more

In the Matter of: P.T.D. August 22, 2018 (Montana)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: Department of Public Health and Human Services, Child and Family Services Division, filed a petition to terminate putative father’s parental rights to child, who was a member of or eligible for membership in the Fort Peck Indian Tribe. The District Court, 12th Judicial District, Hill County, No. DN-15-010, Daniel A. Boucher, J., … Read more

Appeals court won’t rule on challenge to Indian Child Welfare Act

A federal appeals court has turned away a closely-watched conservative challenge to the Indian Child Welfare Act.The Goldwater Institute sued the federal government and the state of Arizona, arguing that ICWA is racist because it only applies to “Indian” children. But the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals declined to rule on the merits of the claim because a panel of … Read more

In re C.A., May 23, 2018 (California)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: Dependency proceeding was initiated regarding child born with amphetamine and methamphetamine in her system at birth. Following determination that Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) did not apply to child’s presumed father or biological father, the Superior Court, San Diego County, No. J519280, Kimberlee Lagotta, J., terminated mother’s parental rights to child. Mother and … Read more

Court dismisses challenge to Indian Child Welfare Act [Carter v. Tahsuda]

See the following stories: Judge upholds Indian Child Welfare Act (Arizona Daily Sun) 8/7/18,Court rejects challenge to Native American law on adoptions (Arizona Republic) 8/7/18, and Appeals court won’t rule on challenge on Indian Child Welfare Act (Indianz) 8/7/18. Read the court decision at the National Indian Law Library website.

Glendive Woman Sues Over Child Custody Dispute That Put Tribal, Minnesota Courts at Odds

A Glendive woman is suing the Bureau of Indian Affairs for $1 million over a 2015 child custody dispute that pitted state and tribal courts against each other. Patsy Fercho, 64, fled to the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in 2015 with her two grandchildren in an attempt to avoid a Minnesota court’s order granting custody to … Read more

In Matter of L.D. March 27, 2018 (Montana)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: In child protection proceeding, the District Court, Eighth Judicial District, Cascade County, John A. Kutzman, J., terminated mother’s parental rights. Mother appealed. Holdings provided by Westlaw: The Supreme Court, Sandefur, J., held that: 1) Department of Health and Human Services could not passively rely on inaction of Indian tribe to satisfy burden under Indian … Read more

In the Matter of J.W.E., I.W.E., and J.W.E. April 11, 2018 (Oklahoma)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: The Department of Human Services filed petition to terminate mother’s parental rights. The District Court, Blaine County, Mark A. Moore, J., terminated mother’s rights and denied her motion for new trial that alleged that Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) applied to proceedings. Mother appealed. Holding provided by Westlaw: The Court of Civil Appeals, Jane … Read more

Miccosukee Tribe Ties Child Welfare Case to Violence Against Women

The Miccosukee Tribe is defending its handling of a child welfare case that has drawn national attention.The tribe said a newborn was taken from her mother, a Miccosukee citizen, in order to protect the baby girl and her older siblings from domestic violence. The mother had previously been victimized by her non-Indian former partner, whose presence at … Read more

In re K.R v. E.K. February 22, 2018 (California)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: Dependency proceeding was initiated by county department of public social services regarding three children. The Superior Court, Riverside County, No. SWJ1600319, Judith C. Clark, J., determined that Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) did not apply and subsequently terminated mother’s parental rights to children. Holdings provided by Westlaw: The Court of Appeal, McKinster Acting P.J., held … Read more

In Interest of L.H. February 23, 2018 (Colorado)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: County department of human services sought to terminate mother’s parent-child legal relationship with her child who had possible Indian heritage. The District Court, Jefferson County, No. 15JV650, Ann Gail Meinster, J., determined that Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) did not apply and terminated mother’s parental rights. Mother appealed. Holding provided by Westlaw: The … Read more

Diego K. v. State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, February 23, 2018 (Alaska)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: Office of Children’s Services (OCS) petitioned for removal of Indian child from parents’ custody. The Superior Court, Fourth Judicial District, Bethel, No. 4SM-14-00002 CN, Dwayne W. McConnell, J., ordered child removed from her parents’ home. Parents appealed. The Supreme Court remanded for additional findings. Following remand, the Superior Court, McConnell, J., issued ordering clarifying … Read more

ICWA case denied at U.S. Supreme Court: R.K.B. et al., v. E.T.

On March 26, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear this case: R.K.B. et al., v. E.T. Briefs and Pleadings Docket No. 17-942 Question Presented: The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, 25 U.S.C. 1901–1963, applies to state custody proceedings involving an Indian child. State courts of last resort are divided on the following … Read more

5-year-old Native American Boy to Remain in Ohio for Now

A 5-year-old Native American boy at the center of controversy for more than a year will remain with his Coshocton County foster family, for now. Last week, the Ohio Court of Appeals reversed an earlier juvenile court ruling that would have sent the preschooler 2,000 miles from his home to a reservation in Arizona. The ruling stated the juvenile court should … Read more

Supreme Court Turns Away Another Conservative Attack on Indian Child Welfare Act

Without comment, the justices on Tuesday denied a petition in Renteria v. Superior Court of California, Tulare County. The move, which came in an order list, ends a lawsuit which claimed ICWA was based on “race” and should be declared unconstitutional. Read the full article at the Indianz website.

Court Hears Tribal Challenge to South Dakota Child Removals

A lawyer representing two American Indian tribes urged a federal appeals court Tuesday to keep in place the changes a judge ordered for a South Dakota county’s system of removing children from homes in endangerment cases. Read the full article at the ABC News website. Read related coverage at the Indianz website.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Written Advisement Form Does Not Satisfy ICWA Notice Requirements

The Department contended that mother’s signing of a written advisement of her rights, which included a question about the ICWA, served as the court’s initial inquiry. The inquiry should be made on the record. Regardless, the Court of Appeals found that the Department failed to send notice to the appropriate tribes when mother identified a … Read more

South Dakota’s Federal ICWA Ruling Heads To 8th Circuit Court of Appeals

The Indian Child Welfare Act lawsuit filed in Rapid City’s federal court almost five years ago is going to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. A three-judge panel is hearing oral arguments in St. Paul, Minn., on Tuesday, Feb. 12. In March 2013, the Rosebud and Oglala Sioux Tribes, as well as tribal parents, brought … Read more

In the Interest of K.G. and A.R., November 29, 2017 (Colorado)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: Department of human services moved for an allocation of parental responsibilities of two children from mother to children’s aunt and uncle. The District Court, Mesa County, Valerie J. Robinson, J., entered an order allocating parental responsibilities, and did not address any applicability of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Mother appealed. Holdings … Read more

In the Interest of K.S.D. , December 7, 2017 (North Dakota)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: County Social Services filed petition to terminate mother’s and father’s parental rights to Native American children. The Juvenile Court, Grand Forks County, Northeast Central Judicial District, Jon J. Jensen, J., terminated father’s parental rights, and father appealed. Holdings provided by Westlaw: The Supreme Court, Stacy J., Louser, District Court Judge, sitting for Jensen, J., disqualified, … Read more

R.K.B. et al., v. E.T. (Case Petitioned to the U.S. Supreme Court on 12/29/17.)

Briefs and Pleadings Docket No. 17-942 Question Presented: The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, 25 U.S.C. 1901–1963, applies to state custody proceedings involving an Indian child. State courts of last resort are divided on the following critical question, a question that likely affects thousands of adoption proceedings each year, and on which this court … Read more

Indian Child Welfare Act Under Attack Again as Conservative Group Submits Appeal to Supreme Court

The conservative Goldwater Institute is attacking the Indian Child Welfare Act again.The group has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an ICWA case from California. The petition in Renteria v. Superior Court of California, Tulare County claims the 1978 law is based on “race” and should be deemed unconstitutional. Read the full article at the Indianz.com website.

Supreme Court Won’t Take up Race-Based Challenge to Indian Child Welfare Act

Without comment, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition in S.S. v. Colorado River Indian Tribes. The action, which came in an order list on Monday morning, lets stand a decision from Arizona, where opponents of ICWA tried to undermine the landmark law by claiming it is based on “race.” The Arizona Court of Appeals … Read more

A.D. v. Washburn, March 16, 2017 (U.S. Dis. Court, Arizona)

Legal Topics: Indian Child Welfare Act – Unconstitutional Related News Stories: Indian Child Welfare Act survives attack from conservative groups (Indianz) 3/21/17 (Turtle Talk material), ICWA: Goldwater case thrown out of federal court (Indian Country Today) 3/21/17 Read the full decision at the National Indian Law Library website.  

Colorado Court of Appeals: Dependency and Neglect Court Should Have Followed ICWA’s Notice Requirements

On appeal, A.T. contended that the order should be reversed because the Department did not comply with the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) notice requirements. First, when there is “reason to know” the child is an Indian child, the juvenile court must ensure that the Department sends notice to any identified Indian Tribe. Second, the … Read more

Court rejects challenge to law safeguarding Native children and families

March 17 – Yesterday, the federal District Court for the District of Arizona dismissed A.D. v. Washburn, a case brought by the Goldwater Institute challenging the Indian Child Welfare Act’s (ICWA) application to Native children in the Arizona foster care system. This case was an attempt by a special interest group to dismantle the law … Read more

In South Dakota, Officials Defied a Federal Judge and Took Indian Kids Away From Their Parents in Rigged Proceedings

In March 2015, Chief Federal District Court Judge Jeffrey L. Viken confirmed what our complaint had alleged: State employees were removing children from their homes and then holding hearings in state court within 48 hours, in which parents were not assigned counsel to represent them, were not given a copy of the petition accusing them … Read more

State, County Officials Appeal Ruling on Native Children Case

South Dakota and Pennington County officials filed an appeal Friday challenging U.S. District Court rulings that ordered changes in their handling of temporary custody hearings involving Native American children. Read the full article at the Rapid City Journal website. Read a related article at the Native Sun News website.

In re Charlotte V., November 1, 2016, (California)

Read the full decision at the National Indian Law Library website. Synopsis from Westlaw: County child welfare agency filed dependency petition. The Superior Court, Los Angeles County, No. CK81121, Emma Castro, Commissioner, terminated parental rights. Mother appealed. Holding from Westlaw: The Court of Appeal, Bigelow, P.J., held that agency provided adequate ICWA notice to conclude … Read more

Guardianship of C.H.S., November 22, 2016, (Oklahoma)

Read the full copy of the decision at the National Indian Law Library website. Synopsis from Westlaw: Cherokee Nation filed petition to transfer guardianship action regarding Indian children to Cherokee Nation District Court, to which children’s guardians objected. The District Court, Okfuskee County, Lawrence W. Parish, J., denied transfer. Cherokee Nation appealed. Holding from Westlaw: … Read more

In re O.C., November 22, 2016, (California)

Read the full decision at the National Indian Law Library website. Synopsis from Westlaw: County children and family services agency filed petition against mother and father to terminate their parental rights to minor children, who potentially had Indian heritage. Following hearing, the Superior Court, Mendocino County, Nos. SCUK-JVSQ-14-1702501 and SCUK-JVSQ-14-1702601, David Riemenschneider, J., found both … Read more

Girls Caught in Custody Battle After Parents are Killed in Head-On Collision

The children have recovered from their injuries, but they now are innocent victims of a custody battle that pits their relatives in Visalia, Calif., against relatives in the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians in Placerville, Calif. The case in U.S. District Court in Sacramento is being closely watched because a federal judge has ruled … Read more

Case petitioned to U.S. Supreme Court: R.P. v. LA County Department of Children and Family Services

R.P. v. LA County Department of Children and Family Services U.S. Supreme Court Briefs and Pleadings Docket No. 16-500 Question Presented: The questions presented are: (1) Whether ICWA applies where the child has not been removed from an Indian family or community. (2) Whether ICWA’s adoptive placement preferences, 25 U.S.C.1915(a), require removal from a foster … Read more

United Auburn Indian Community of the Auburn Rancheria v. Edmund G. Brown, Jr., October 13, 2016, (California)

Read a full copy of the decision at the National Indian Law Library website. Synopsis provided by Westlaw: State moved to terminate natural mother’s parental rights, default order was entered against mother, and Indian tribe intervened after mother became enrolled citizen of tribe. The District Court, Rogers County, Stephen R. Pazzo, J., granted tribe’s motion … Read more

In re Alexandria P., July 8, 2016 (California)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: County department of children and family services (DCFS) filed dependency petition on behalf of child, who was considered an Indian child under Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and, after child was placed with foster family and efforts to reunify child with father failed, DCFS, father, and Indian tribe recommended that child … Read more

In re Abbigail A. , July 14, 2016 (California)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: County department of health and human services filed dependency petitions as to two children. The Superior Court, Sacramento County, Nos. JD232871 and JD232872, Paul L. Seave, J., directed counsel to make reasonable efforts to enroll the children and their father in a tribe which had notified the court that they were … Read more

In re Andrew S., August 15, 2016 (California)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: Child dependency proceeding was commenced. The Superior Court, Los Angeles County, No. DK11636, Philip L. Soto, J., found jurisdiction over the children and removed them from parental custody, and father appealed. Holdings provided by Westlaw: The Court of Appeal, Perluss, P.J., held that: 1) father’s failure to provide children with support, … Read more

In re Michael V., September 14, 2016 (California)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: County child welfare agency filed dependency petition as to two daughters. The Superior Court, Los Angeles County, No. DK02646, Zeke D. Zeidler, J., terminated parental rights and transferred care, custody, and control of the daughters to the county child welfare agency for adoptive planning and placement. Mother appealed. Holding provided by … Read more

Tribes Suing OCS Director and North Star Seek Quicker Court Oversight of Foster Children

The tribes, represented by Alaska Legal Services Corp., had alleged defendants North Star Behavioral Health Center and Christy Lawton, director of the Alaska Office Children’s Services, had improperly warehoused foster children at the [psychicatric hospital] facility for indefinite periods of time. Read the full article at the Alaska Dispatch News website.

Gila River Indian Community Weighs Options After Losing Indian Child Welfare Act Case

Although the proceeding only involved one child, it’s being closely watched because the non-Indian foster couple is being represented by the Goldwater Institute. The conservative-leaning organization, which is based in Arizona, has launched a public relations and legal campaign aimed at undermining and even invalidating the landmark Indian Child Welfare Act. Read the full article … Read more

Arizona Court Upholds Adoption by Non-Indian Family

Over the objections of a tribe, the state Court of Appeals has allowed a non-Indian family to adopt the child of a Native American mother. Read the full article at the Arizona Daily Sun website. See also “Arizona court rejects tribe’s appeal in girl’s adoption case” at the AZFamily.com website.

California Appeals Court Rules in Favor of ICWA Placement Preference in R.P. et al. v. J.E. et al.

On Friday, July 8, 2016, the Court of Appeal of the State of California – Second Appellate District upheld a lower court’s decision in R.P. et al. v. J.E. et al. that used the Indian Child Welfare Act as its basis to remove a four-year-old female child from her non-Native foster family. We have twice … Read more

State v. Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, March 25, 2016 (Alaska)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes filed action against state, seeking declaratory judgment that its tribal court system had subject matter jurisdiction over child support matters and seeking an injunction requiring the state’s child support enforcement agency to recognize tribal courts’ child support orders. The Superior Court, First Judicial … Read more

In re Doe, March 24, 2016 (Idaho)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: Mother’s parental rights were terminated by the Second Judicial District Court, Nez Perce County, Michelle Evans, Magistrate Judge, and she appealed. Holdings provided by Westlaw: The Supreme Court, W. Jones, J., held that: 1) trial court’s determination that mother neglected child was supported by substantial and competent evidence; 2) Department of … Read more

In re Adoption of B.T.S. , March 7, 2016 (Oklahoma)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: Prospective adoptive parents filed a petition for adoption which also sought to terminate mother and father’s parental rights and an order determining that child was eligible for adoption without mother’s consent. The District Court, Cherokee County, Sandy Crosslin, J., determined child was eligible for adoption without mother’s consent. Mother appealed. Holding … Read more

Judge in South Dakota Sanctioned in Indian Child Welfare Act Case

A judge in South Dakota has agreed to pay $50,000 in sanctions in an Indian Child Welfare Act case. Judge Jeff Davis did not admit to “concealing” information sought by the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, two of the plaintiffs in the case. But he agreed to pay attorney’s fees for failing … Read more

In re Interest of Tavian B., February 19, 2016 (Nebraska)

Background from Westlaw: State filed petition to terminate the parental rights of mother and father to their purportedly Indian children. Father sought transfer of proceedings to Tribal Court. Prior to juvenile court’s ruling on motion to transfer, the state withdrew its motion to terminate parental rights. The Separate Juvenile Court, Lancaster County, Reggie L. Ryder, … Read more

State in Interest of M.D., January 7, 2016 (Utah)

Synopsis from Westlaw: A petition to terminate father’s parental rights to his three Indian children was filed. The Third District Juvenile Court, Salt Lake Department, No. 1094548, Charles D. Behrens, J., terminated parental rights. Father appealed. Holdings from Westlaw: The Court of Appeals held that evidence supported finding that the State made active efforts to … Read more

Alaska Supreme Court Orders State to Enforce Tribal Child Support Orders as Essential

In a major decision on child support, the Alaska Supreme Court stopped a Parnell administration effort against tribal rights that lingered during Gov. Bill Walker’s reign. The court ruled unanimously Friday in a case going back to the beginning of the decade that tribes have authority over child support. The court directed the state to enforce … Read more

Indian Children’s Law in Choctaw Foster Case Praised by Some, Criticized by Others

A California couple’s fight to reunite with a 6-year-old foster child who was taken from their home last week because she is 1/64th Choctaw Native American has cast a spotlight on the Indian Child Welfare Act. The law has been long hailed as a protective tool for Native American communities by some and criticized as … Read more

ICWA: Victory for Tribes as Judge Reaffirms South Dakota Decision

The class action case is now in its third year, having been filed in March 2013 by three Indian mothers and the Oglala and Rosebud Sioux Tribes in South Dakota to address ongoing violations in that state. According to tribal officials and advocacy groups, approximately 750 Indian children a year are swept into foster care, … Read more

Gila River Indian Community v. Department of Child Safety, December 8, 2015 (Arizona)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: Indian community moved to change child’s custody from foster home to aunt. After an evidentiary hearing, the Superior Court, Maricopa County, No. JD 510468, Shellie F. Smith, Judge Pro Tem, denied the motion. Holdings provided by Westlaw: The Court of Appeals, Downie, J., held that: [1] as a matter of first … Read more

In re Doe, February 1, 2016 (Idaho)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: In adoption proceedings in which Indian tribes intervened, claiming the child at issue was an Indian child protected by the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), the 7th Judicial District Court, Bonneville County, Ralph L. Savage, Magistrate Judge, determined that child was not an Indian child, granted adoption, and granted attorney fees … Read more

Federal Judge Dismisses Anti-ICWA Suit

On Thursday a federal judge in the Eastern District of Virginia dismissed a suit challenging both the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act and the new federal guidelines that were implemented last February by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, citing a lack of subject matter jurisdiction and standing in the case. Read the full … Read more

In re K.M., November 20, 2015 (California)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: In a dependency proceeding, the Superior Court, Orange County, No. DP024561, Craig E. Arthur, J., terminated parental rights to child. Mother and father appealed. While the matter was still pending on appeal, the Superior Court issued a post judgment order finding that the county child welfare agency complied with the Indian … Read more

Disenrollment from Pala Band Affects Children in ICWA Case

Two children who were disenrolled by the Pala Band of Mission Indians cannot be protected by the Indian Child Welfare Act, a California appeals court ruled on Tuesday.   The tribe formally objected in July 2009 when K.P. and Kristopher were put up for adoption. Their mother, Michelle T., is enrolled.   But sometime during … Read more

In re Candace A., November 9, 2015 (California)

Synopsis from Westlaw: County child welfare agency filed dependency petition. The Superior Court, Los Angeles County, Valerie Skeba, No. DK05991, Juvenile Court Referee, issued jurisdiction findings and disposition order declaring child a dependent of the juvenile court and removing her from parents’ custody. Parents appealed. Holdings from Westlaw: The Court of Appeal, Perluss, P.J., held … Read more

Jennifer L. v. State Department of Health and Social Services, August 28, 2015 (Alaska)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: After Office of Children’s Services (OCS) took three minor children into emergency custody, a standing master determined that no probable cause existed and recommended that children be returned to mother’s custody. Following remand from the Supreme Court, 2014 WL 1888190, the Superior Court, Fourth Judicial District, Aniak, Douglas Blankenship, J., rejected … Read more

In re M.R., September 17, 2015 (North Dakota)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: Father appealed from decision of the Juvenile Court, Cass County, East Central Judicial District, Susan J. Solheim, Judicial Referee, terminating his parental rights. Holdings provided by Westlaw: The Supreme Court, Kapsner, J., held that: (1) juvenile court’s finding that the conditions and causes of child’s deprivation were likely to continue was … Read more

State, Feds Defend Tribal Adoption Law

In court filings Friday, attorneys for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the state Department of Child Safety federal agency acknowledged the Indian Child Welfare Act does require state courts when placing Indian children for adoption to give preference to a member of the child’s extended family. That is followed by priority by other members … Read more

Couples Sue Over Tribal Adoption Hurdles

For nearly four decades, couples wishing to adopt American Indian children out of troubled situations have faced several hurdles, including giving the child’s tribe a chance to find suitable tribal parents first. Now some prospective adoptive parents, Indian birthparents and members of the adoption industry are challenging the laws and regulations involved. Read the excerpt … Read more

In re I.R., July 28, 2015, (Maine)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: The Department of Health and Human Services initiated child protection proceedings with regard to mother’s child. The District Court, Portland, Powers, J., entered judgment terminating mother’s parental rights. Mother appealed. Holdings provided by Westlaw: The Supreme Judicial Court held that: (1) the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) did not apply to … Read more

In re I.B. v. W.H., August 11, 2015, (California)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: County Department of Children and Family Services filed juvenile dependency petition. After petition was sustained at jurisdictional hearing, the Department provided notice of the action to certain Indian tribes pursuant to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Following six-month review hearing, the Superior Court, Los Angeles County, No. CK76502, Timothy Saito, … Read more

War of Words: ICWA Faces Multiple Assaults From Adoption Industry

“At this point it is pretty clear that anti-ICWA advocates, who primarily represent adoption interests, have started a coordinated attack on ICWA,” said Kate Fort, Staff Attorney and Adjunct Professor for the Indigenous Law and Policy Center at Michigan State University College of Law. “They are looking for cases of opportunity in courts across the … Read more

In re P.R., May 12, 2015, (California)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: County health and human services agency filed dependency petition. The Superior Court, Shasta County, No. 13JVSQ2966501, Molly A. Bigelow, J., sustained jurisdictional allegations, terminated reunification services, terminated parental rights, selected a permanent plan of adoption, and found that the child was not placed within Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) preferences because … Read more

In re K.J.B., June 11, 2015, (Washington)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: In child protection proceeding, the Yakima Superior Court, David A. Elofson, J., terminated father’s parental rights. Father appealed. Holdings provided by Westlaw: The Court of Appeals, Lawrence-Berrey, J., held that: (1) state satisfied notice requirements of Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) by notifying Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), but not “Blackfoot” … Read more

In re the Adoption of T.A.W., July 7, 2015, (Washington)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: Indian mother and her husband petitioned to terminate non-Indian biological father’s parental rights to Indian son and to allow husband to adopt son. The Superior Court, Pacific County, Douglas E. Goelz, J., granted petition. Father appealed. Holdings provided by Westlaw: The Court of Appeals, Maxa, J., held that: (1) father could … Read more

In re Jassenia H., June 12, 2015, (Nebraska)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: After juvenile court granted state agency temporary custody of child and ordered that she be removed from mother’s care, State filed a petition for adjudication alleging that child lacked proper parental care and/or that child was in a situation dangerous to life or limb or injurious to her health or morals. … Read more

Goldwater Institute Files Anti-ICWA Case

This complaint goes directly at the right of tribes to determine their tribal citizenry. From this paragraph on, the complaint bases everything on the “child’s race” or “Indian ancestry” and their “unequal treatment” under ICWA… Read more and find the complaint at the Turtle Talk blog. Find case updates at this Turtle Talk blog page.

ALERT: Online Press Conference Tuesday, July 7

What:  Press conference announcing anti-ICWA lawsuit and campaign When:  Tuesday, July 7, 2015, 9:00 a.m. Pacific time Where: https://www.youtube.com/user/GoldwaterInstitute Who:  Goldwater Institute representatives From the press release: Goldwater Institute to File Class Action Lawsuit Against Indian Child Welfare Act Phoenix—Tomorrow, Tuesday, July 7, the Goldwater Institute will launch a new project to reform the Indian Child … Read more

Payton S. v. State of Alaska, Department of Health and Social Services, may 1, 2015, (Alaska)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: The Office of Children’s Services (OCS) sought to terminate parental rights to Indian children. The Superior Court, Fourth Judicial District, Bethel, Dwayne W. McConnell, J., terminated parental rights. Parents appealed. Holdings provided by Westlaw: The Supreme Court, Maassen, J., held that: (1) even though the trial court erred by entering an … Read more

Lavallie v. Lavallie, March 24, 2015, (North Dakota)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: After mother assigned her right to recover benefits paid by state for Indian child, the state sought to impose future child support obligation on father, and to recover a judgment for support expended to mother on behalf of child. The District Court, Rolette County, Michael G. Sturdevant, J., denied purported father’s … Read more

New Challenge to Native American Adoption Rules

A husband-wife team from two Washington, D.C., law offices filed suit Wednesday challenging strict new government guidelines for adopting Native American children in the aftermath of a landmark 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Read the full article a the National Law Journal website.

Judge in Indian Child Welfare Case Asks Court to Reconsider

A South Dakota state judge and other defendants have filed motions requesting a federal judge reconsider his ruling in which he found state officials in Rapid City set policies that violate the federal Indian Child Act Welfare Act. Read the full article at the Seattle PI website. See related article, “Circuit judge and others claim federal … Read more

‘A Great Triumph for Our Indian Children’: Tribes Win Landmark Child Welfare Case

On Monday, March 30 a federal judge issued a landmark decision affirming that officials in South Dakota violated numerous provisions in the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and denied Indian parents their rights under the Due Process Clause of the Constitution. Referencing widespread and systemic failure to protect the integrity of Indian families, Judge Jeffrey … Read more

New Jersey Div. of Child Protection and Permanency v. K.T.D., February 20, 2015, (New Jersey)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: State Division of Child Protection and Permanency petitioned to terminate mother’s parental rights to child with Native American ancestors. The Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family Part, Camden County, terminated parental rights. Mother appealed. Holding provided by Westlaw: The Superior Court, Appellate Division, O’Connor, J., held that trial court was required to … Read more

In re H.G., February 24, 2015, (California)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: County human services agency filed dependency petition. The Superior Court, Ventura County, Nos. J068715 & J069080, Bruce A. Young, J., granted petition and terminated parental rights. Parents appealed. Holding provided by Westlaw: The Court of Appeal, Perren, J., held that noncompliance with Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) required reversal. Reversed and … Read more

In re KMN, February 26, 2015, (Michigan)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: County human services agency filed dependency petition. The Superior Court, Ventura County, Nos. J068715 & J069080, Bruce A. Young, J., granted petition and terminated parental rights. Parents appealed. Holding provided by Westlaw: The Court of Appeal, Perren, J., held that noncompliance with Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) required reversal. Reversed and … Read more

Sylvia L. v. State of Alaska, February 20, 2015, (Alaska)

Indian Law Bulletins  | State Courts Synopsis provided by Westlaw: Office of Children’s Services (OCS) petitioned to terminate mother’s parental rights with regard to one Indian and two non-Indian children. Following a bench trial, the Superior Court, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Patrick J. McKay, J., terminated mother’s parental rights with regard to the three children, and … Read more

Michigan Court of Appeals Reverses Adoption of Indian Child; Cites Michigan Adoptive Placement Preference Standards

The federal government and the state of Michigan show concern over potential separation of Indian children from their families and tribes through the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and the Michigan Indian Family Preservation Act (MIFPA), which include adoptive placement preference requirements for individuals seeking to adopt Indian children. Those laws again came into play … Read more

Alaska Requests More Time to Consider Position in ICWA Dispute

“The state has requested an additional 30-day extension because the administration needs additional time to determine its response to the issues raised in the petition and the amicus brief,” Jacqueline Schaffer, an assistant attorney general with the Alaska Department of Law, told KNBA. Read the March 18 article at the Indianz.com website. Related links: March … Read more

Native Sun News: Lakota Children in ‘Imminent Danger’ in State

The class action lawsuit, which involves the first 48 hours after an Indian child is taken from his or her family, alleges the State of South Dakota regularly violates the Constitutional Rights of Indian parents and provision 1922 of the Indian Child Welfare Act during the “show cause” hearing. The case, OST et. al vs … Read more

Tribes asking federal court to force judge to disclose communications

Chief U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Viken delayed a ruling on whether … 7th Circuit Judge Jeff Davis, of Rapid City, would have to turn over records of his discussions with other 7th Circuit judges…. Viken’s ultimate decision may be a key ruling in the 2-year-old lawsuit brought by the Oglala Sioux and Rosebud Sioux tribes and … Read more

In re S.B.C., December 30, 2015 (Montana)

Synopsis: The Department of Public Health and Human Services, Child and Family Services Division, sought permanent legal custody of Indian child with right to consent to adoption. The District Court, Missoula County, Edward P. McLean, P.J., terminated both parents’ rights to the child, and granted the Department permanent legal custody with right to consent to … Read more

Ebert v. Bruce L., January 22, 2015 (Alaska)

Synopsis: Prospective parents petitioned to adopt Indian child over objection of biological father. The Superior Court, Third Judicial District, Palmer, Eric Smith, J., denied petition. Prospective parents appealed. Holding: The Supreme Court, Bolger, J., held that: (1) no serious conflict existed between state statute governing adoption and Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), such that ICWA … Read more

In re Doe, January 23, 2015 (Idaho)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: Mother of Native American child appealed from order of the District Court, Third Judicial District, Payette County, Brian D. Lee, Magistrate Judge, terminating mother’s parental rights. Holding provided by Westlaw: The Supreme Court, J. Jones, J., held that substantial and competent evidence supported finding that state made active efforts to prevent … Read more

In re H.T., February 10, 2015 (Montana)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: Department of Public Health and Human Services filed petition to terminate mother’s parental right to Indian child after emergency foster care placement. The Eighth Judicial District Court, Cascade County, Julie Macek, J., terminated parental rights. Mother appealed. Holdings provided by Westlaw: The Supreme Court, Beth Baker, J., held that: (1) mother’s … Read more

In re ARW, February 19, 2015 (Wyoming)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: Prospective adoptive parents filed a petition to terminate father’s parental rights. The District Court of Natrona County, Daniel L. Forgey, J., terminated parental rights. Father appealed. Holding provided by Westlaw: The Supreme Court, Burke, C.J., held that: (1) evidence supported determination that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) did not apply … Read more

New Jersey Div. of Child Protection and Permanency v. K.T.D., February 20, 2015 (New Jersey)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: State Division of Child Protection and Permanency petitioned to terminate mother’s parental rights to child with Native American ancestors. The Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family Part, Camden County, terminated parental rights. Mother appealed. Holding provided by Westlaw: The Superior Court, Appellate Division, O’Connor, J., held that trial court was required to … Read more

In re H.G., February 24, 2015 (California)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: County human services agency filed dependency petition. The Superior Court, Ventura County, Nos. J068715 & J069080, Bruce A. Young, J., granted petition and terminated parental rights. Parents appealed. Holding provided by Westlaw: The Court of Appeal, Perren, J., held that noncompliance with Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) required reversal. Reversed and … Read more

Michigan Court of Appeals Reverses Termination of Parental Rights; Cites Indian Child Welfare Act Standard

In any child custody proceeding involving Indian children, all parties should understand there are significant legal and procedural requirements that must be met before parental rights to Indian children may be terminated. The federal government and the State of Michigan show concern over potential separation of Indian children from their families and tribes through the Indian … Read more

Asa’carsarmuit Tribal Council v. Wheeler III, November 21, 2014, (Alaska)

Synopsis from Westlaw: Father filed emergency motion to modify custody after State initiated Child In Need of Aid (CINA) action against mother. Tribal council which had issued original custody order was permitted to intervene. The Superior Court, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Andrew Guidi, J., awarded father primary physical custody. Council appealed. Holding from Westlaw: The … Read more

In re Interest of Shayla H., November 14, 2014, (Nebraska)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) initiated dependency proceedings concerning father’s three Native American children. The Juvenile Court, Lancaster County, Linda S. Porter, J., adjudicated children as dependent, and subsequently entered dispositional order the DHHS had made reasonable efforts at reunification, but that it was in best interests of … Read more

Department of Human Services v. M.D., November 13, 2014 (Oregon)

Synopsis from Westlaw: In child protection case involving Indian child, the Circuit Court, Jackson County, Patricia Crain, J., entered order determining that Department of Human Services (DHS) made active efforts to provide remedial services and rehabilitative programs designed to prevent the breakup of an Indian family. Mother appealed. Holding from Westlaw: The Court of Appeals, … Read more

Chloe W. v. State, Dep’t of Health & Social Serv., and Office of Children’s Serv., November 7, 2014 (Alaska)

Synopsis from Westlaw: The Office of Children’s Services (OCS) petitioned to terminate mother’s parental rights to Indian child. The Superior Court, First Judicial District, Juneau, Louis J. Menendez, J., terminated parental rights. Mother appealed. Holdings from Westlaw: The Supreme Court, Fabe, C.J., held that: (1) counsel’s decision to enter into a stipulation as to psychiatrist’s … Read more

In re M.H., November 7, 2014 (Kansas)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: Father appealed order of the District Court, Shawnee County, Jean M. Schmidt, J., terminating his parental rights. Holdings provided by Westlaw: The Court of Appeals, Leben, J., held that: (1) state sufficiently proved that it had complied with requirement of Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA); (2) clear and convincing evidence showed … Read more

Dinwiddie Dep’t of Social Services v. Nunnally, October 31, 2014 (Virginia)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: Department of Social Services (DSS) filed petitions for foster care plans with the goal of adoption and to terminate parental rights of father and Indian mother. Indian tribe filed a motion to intervene and filed a motion to transfer jurisdiction to tribal court under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The … Read more

In re L.S., J.R., et al. October 24, 2014 (California)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: County Health and Human Services Agency filed dependency petition alleging children were at risk. Following contested dispositional hearing, parents filed motion to modify bypass order and sought reunification services.The Superior Court, El Dorado County, Nos. SDP20130007 & SDP20130008, Dylan M. Sullivan, Court Commissioner, denied the motion, terminated parental rights, and selected … Read more

In re McCarrick/Lamoreaux, October 23, 2014 (Michigan)

Synopsis: (from the opinion) “This consolidated child welfare dispute involves three dockets. In Docket No. 315510, respondent-mother, M. McCarrick, appeals of right the trial court’s March 13, 2013 order removing her three minor children from her home. In Docket No. 317403, McCarrick appeals of right the trial court’s June 28, 2013 order removing her minor … Read more

In the matter of L.M., October 22, 2014 (Oregon)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: In child dependency proceedings, parents appealed judgment of the Circuit Court, Douglas County, William A. Marshall, J., changing the permanency plan for their child from reunification to adoption. Holding provided by Westlaw: The Court of Appeals, Ortega, P.J., held that: (1) permanency hearing was not a key juncture in which due … Read more

C.F. v. The Superior Court, October 1, 2014 (California)

Background provided by Westlaw: Child dependency proceeding was commenced. The Superior Court, Mendocino County, Nos. SCUKJVSQ 13–16775, SCUKJVSQ 13–16776, SCUKJVSQ 13–16777, Cindee F. Mayfield, J., issued order setting a permanent plan hearing, and mother petitioned for extraordinary relief. Holdings provided by Westlaw: The Court of Appeal, Rivera, J., held that: 1) Court of Appeal would … Read more

In re M.S. , September 30, 2014 (Montana)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: Department of Public Health and Human Services filed petition to terminate parental rights of mother and Indian father to Indian child. Notice was given to father’s tribe, and tribe intervened. The petition was dismissed and then refiled. Mother voluntarily relinquished her parental rights. The Eighth Judicial District Court, County of Cascade, … Read more

In re Francisco D., September 29, 2014 (California)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: County department of children and family services (DCFS) filed dependency petition. The Superior Court, No. CK98476, Los Angeles County, Jacqueline Lewis, Referee, sustained jurisdictional allegations and removed child from adoptive mother’s care. Mother appealed.  Holding provided by Westlaw: The Court of Appeal, Kitching, J., held that: (1) child’s sister had been … Read more

Alaska Supreme Court: Native Child can be Adopted by Non-Native Family

  In a split decision, the Alaska Supreme Court has ruled against the village of Tununak, which was appealing a lower court’s decision that allowed an Alaska Native infant to be adopted by non-Native parents rather than giving custody to her extended biological family in the tiny Western Alaska community. The Supreme Court’s ruling this … Read more

Alaska Supreme Court’s latest ICWA Decision is a Blow to Alaska Native Family Rights

On September 12, 2014, the Alaska Supreme Court issued a decision that will effectively bar most Alaska Native families from asserting their rights under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and in doing so will increase the number of Native children severed from their families and culture. In the Native Village of Tununak II v. … Read more

In re Isaiah W., August 8, 2014 (California)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: Department of Children and Family Services filed a petition alleging that mother’s and father’s illicit drug use placed child at risk of harm. After terminating parents’ reunification services and setting a hearing on the termination of parental rights, the Superior Court, Los Angeles County, No. CK91018, Jacqueline H. Lewis, J., entered order … Read more

Judge Accepts Feds’ Comments on Indian Child Welfare Case (South Dakota)

August 18, 2014. In what is being called a rare move, the Department of Justice last week threw its support behind two South Dakota tribes and two Native American mothers that have accused state officials of violating the Indian Child Welfare Act by taking custody of their children for 60 days after only a brief hearing. … Read more

Why Are These Indian Children Being Torn Away From Their Homes?

Imagine entering family court and knowing that what’s at stake is the person you hold most dear – your child. Now imagine having a judge tell you that he’s removing your child from your custody, from your home. When you ask him why, the judge’s replies, “I honestly can’t tell you.” The judge then signs … Read more

Alaska Supreme Court sides with Interior tribe in child custody, sovereignty case

The Alaska Supreme Court ruled Friday in support of an Interior tribal court in a child custody and tribal sovereignty case that was contested by Gov. Sean Parnell’s administration. The case, Simmonds v. Parks, started almost six years ago as a custody dispute in the Village of Minto, a town of 200 people about 130 … Read more

Billie v. Stier, April 25, 2014 (Florida)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: After unmarried mother who was member of Indian tribe filed custody petition in tribal court, father filed custody petition in circuit court. The Circuit Court, Miami–Dade County, entered order determining that it had jurisdiction pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). Mother filed petition for writ of … Read more

In re Interest of Shayla H. et al., May 20, 2014 (Nebraska)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) initiated dependency proceedings concerning father’s three children. The Juvenile Court, Lancaster County, Linda S. Porter, J., entered dispositional order ordering a change of family therapist, declined to return legal custody of the children to father, and made specific ordered related only to father. … Read more

In the Matter of Abbigail A. June 16, 2014 (California)

Synopsis from Westlaw: County department of health and human services filed  dependency petitions as to two children. The Superior Court, Sacramento County, Nos. JD232871 & JD232872, Paul L. Seave, J., directed counsel to make reasonable efforts to enroll the children and their father in a tribe which had notified the court that they were eligible … Read more

Swept Away: An In-Depth Look at Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Van Hunnik

This on-going series from the Indian Country Today Media Network examines Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Van Hunnik, which charges South Dakota State and local Pennington County officials with violating the rights of Indian parents and tribes in child custody proceedings. Although the State of South Dakota appeared to be flagrantly operating outside the scope of the … Read more

In re R.L.-P., A.L.-P., R.L.-P., and L.L.-P, February 13, 2014, (North Dakota)

Synopsis from Westlaw: Mother’s and father’s parental rights were terminated by District Court of Burleigh County, South Central Judicial District, Sonna M. Anderson, J., and they both appealed. Holding from Westlaw: The Supreme Court, Sandstrom, J., held that: (1) judicial referee’s fact findings were subject to Supreme Court review for clear error; (2) children remained … Read more

Molly O. v. State, Dep’t of Health and Social Services, Office of Children’s Services, March 14, 2014, (Alaska)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: Department of Health and Social Services, Office of Children’s Services (OCS), took emergency custody of three children and petitioned to terminate mother’s parental rights. The Superior Court, Fourth Judicial District, Fairbanks, Douglas Blankenship, J., denied mother’s motion to join grandmother, and grandmother’s motion to intervene as the children’s Indian custodian. Grandmother … Read more

In re J.S. March 25, 2014, (Montana)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: Department of Public Health and Human Services filed petition for legal guardianship, seeking to award guardianship of Indian child, who had been adjudicated a youth in need of care, to foster parents. The District Court, 20th Judicial District, Lake County, Deborah Kim Christopher, J., granted petition. Child’s father appealed. Holdings provided … Read more

Veronica’s Birth Mom Drops Challenge to Indian Child Welfare Act

Baby Veronica’s birth mother has filed a voluntary dismissal of a federal lawsuit against the Cherokee Nation and the U.S. government, which requested that parts of the Indian Child Welfare Act be declared unconstitutional, attorneys in the case announced Tuesday. Read the full article at the Tulsa World website and related articles at Indian Country … Read more

Circuit Judges Accused of Ignoring Federal Judge’s Order in Suit Over Native Children Custody Hearings

A federal judge wants to know why some South Dakota state judges are refusing to turn over transcripts in Indian Child Welfare Act cases. As part of a lawsuit filed by the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, the state agreed to provide the transcripts. The transcripts are needed to determine whether Indian … Read more

Human Rights to Culture, Family, and Self-Determination: The Case of Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl

Kristen Carpenter and Lorie Graham have contributed a chapter in the forthcoming  Indigenous Rights In International Law (Kirchner and Policastrin, Eds.).  It looks at the international human rights issues raised by the Supreme court’s decision in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl. Abstract: The well-being of indigenous children is a subject of major concern for indigenous … Read more

Federal Judge Rules Lawsuit over Treatment of South Dakota Indian Parents and Tribes Can Move Forward

A federal court has ruled that a lawsuit charging state and local officials with violating the rights of Indian parents and tribes in state child custody proceedings can go to trial. The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit in March 2013 along with the ACLU of South Dakota and Dana Hanna of the Hanna … Read more

Department of Health and Human Services v. J.G., January 2, 2014, (Oregon)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: “Department of Human Services moved to appoint Indian child’s current foster parent as child’s legal guardian. The Circuit Court, Klamath County, Cameron F. Wogan, J., granted motion. Mother appealed.” View the decision at the National Indian Law Library website.

In re Jayden D. and Dayten J., January 14, 2014, (Nebraska)

Excerpt from the opinion: “Yolanda W., formerly known as Yolanda O., appeals from the decision of the separate juvenile court of Lancaster County, which denied her motion to transfer the termination of parental rights proceeding in this juvenile case to tribal court. Because we find that the State failed to establish good cause to deny … Read more

State v. B.B. December 19, 2013, (North Dakota)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: “After tribal court awarded custody of Native American child to his Native American maternal grandmother, State brought action against child’s non-Indian father, seeking an adjudication of paternity, an award of future child support, and an order requiring father to reimburse State for public assistance provided to child’s grandmother. The District Court, … Read more

Lawsuit Against California Districts Allege Abuse of Native Students

[T]wo federal lawsuits [were] filed December 18 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California against two Humboldt County School Districts—Eureka City and Loleta Union—that accuse school officials of perpetuating systemic physical, emotional and sexual abuse of Native American and African-American students. … “This lawsuit was really a last resort,” Nelson said. “It’s been … Read more

Dana Hanna: Courts Continue to Violate ICWA in South Dakota (Native Sun News)

Earlier this year, the Oglala and Rosebud Sioux Tribes and three Indian mothers filed a lawsuit in federal court in Rapid City on behalf of all parents of minor Indian children in Pennington County. That lawsuit, Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Van Hunnik, charges that the South Dakota Department of Social Services (DSS), the Pennington County … Read more

Federal Court Rules on Jurisdiction relating to the Indian Child Welfare Act

In Jones v. Lummi, a federal judge in the state of Washington ruled on an issue relating to tribal jurisdiction. Here is some text from his 10/22/13 opinion: “More than 20 days have now passed since the court issued its September 30, 2013, order, and neither Mr. Jones nor Defendants have filed a timely response … Read more

Kyle S. v. State, Dep’t of Health & Social Services, October 4, 2013 (Alaska)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: “The Department of Health and Social Services filed a petition alleging Indian child was a child in need of aid. The Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Fourth Judicial District, Fairbanks, Randy M. Olsen, J., adjudicated child as a child in need of aid. Father appealed.” Read the decision at … Read more

Chloe O. v. State, Dep’t of Health & Social Services, Office of Children’s Services, September 20, 2013 (Alaska)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: “The Office of Children’s Services (OCS) filed a petition to terminate mother’s parental rights to child. The Superior Court, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Peter A. Michalski, J., terminated parental rights. Mother appealed. The Supreme Court remanded. On remand the Superior Court found, by clear and convincing evidence, that OCS made active … Read more

Claudio P. v. State, Dep’t of Health & Social Services, Office of Children’s Services, September 20, 2013 (Alaska)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: “In child dependency proceeding involving incarcerated father, the Superior Court, Fourth Judicial District, Fairbanks, Michael P. McConahy, J., terminated parental rights. Father appealed.” Read the case at the National Indian Law Library website.

Thompson v. Fairfax County Department of Family Services, September 10, 2013 (Virginia)

Synopsis provided by Westlaw: “County Department of Family Services filed petition to terminate parental rights of both parents of Indian child. The Circuit Court, Fairfax County, Randy I. Bellows, J., held that the guardian ad litem and foster parents had not established good cause to retain jurisdiction and ordered the case transferred to tribal court, … Read more

In re D.N. August 14, 2013 (California)

Here is text from the opinion: R.N. (mother) and E.T. (father) appeal from the order terminating their parental rights to daughters D.N. and A.T. The parents argue there is a lack of compliance with the notice requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act, 25 U.S.C. section 1901 et seq. (ICWA). We affirm. Substantial evidence supports … Read more