Montana acts to protect Native American priority in adopting Native children

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte has signed legislation giving Native American families preference in fostering and adopting Native children involved with child protective services, a proactive move to protect such rights as the U.S. Supreme Court considers a case that could undercut them nationally.

Read full article at Religion News Service.

ICWA for whom?

The Federal Indian Child Welfare Act is at risk. In the closing days of the session, a duel — or a duet? — of would-be replacements plays out.

Read the full article at Montana Free Press.

ICWA Applies in Private Family Custody Arrangements, Montana Supreme Court Rules

The Supreme Court of Montana has ruled that the Indian Child Welfare Act applies to third party custody arrangements in which a Native American parent allows the courts to place their child in the care of a family member. The ruling overturns previous case law in the state that had said ICWA did not apply in these types of custody agreements made privately among family members without child welfare involvement. 

Read the full article at The Imprint.

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 Child Welfare Act (ICWA) to actively investigate and ultimately make formal inquiry with tribe for conclusive determination of child’s tribal membership eligibility, and
2) trial court could not rely on mother’s stipulation or acquiescence that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) did not apply to child to satisfy its threshold duty to obtain conclusive determination from Indian tribe of child’s tribal eligibility. Reversed and remanded.

Read the full decision at the National Indian Law Library website.

New court to connect Native American foster kids with family

Bonnie Littlesun is raising eight children, all but one of whom are her grandkids, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“They’re crazy,” she said, laughing. It was midmorning and she had a brief break while her grandbaby slept and the others were at school. The kids range in age from 13 months to 18 years old.

Read the full article at the Spokesman-Review website.

Native Tradition a Vital Part of Advocate’s Strategy

“The important thing to remember is that you’re not saving these children,” Walksalong said. “You’re helping them.”

Walksalong began in October working as CASA’s Indian Child Welfare Act program coordinator. Part of her job is helping programs like the Center for Children and Families and Child and Family Services, understand the cultural background of Native American children.

Read the full article at the Billings Gazette website.

In the Matter of D.S.B. and D.S.B., Supreme Court of Montana. April 30, 2013.

On April 30, 2013, the Montana Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the fourth district court to terminate parental rights.  Issues considered included:

  • Whether the District Court properly concluded treatment plans were appropriate.
  • Whether the State presented sufficient evidence to terminate parental rights under the ICWA.
  • Whether the state made “active efforts” to prevent the breakup of an Indian family as required by the ICWA.
  • Whether the record contains sufficient evidence that the children would likely suffer severe emotional or physical harm if parental custody was maintained.

See the full opinion at the National Indian Law Library website.

A Practical Guide to the Indian Child Welfare Act

A Practical Guide to the Indian Child Welfare ActThe Guide is intended to answer questions and provide a comprehensive resource of information on the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The online version at was created as a complement to the print version of the Guide, which was printed by the Native American Rights Fund in 2007.

While the topical sections are identical to the print version, the electronic copy has links to thousands of state and federal resources (cases, laws, etc.). In addition to the materials available in the original 360 page print edition, the online version includes more recent cases and a short list of recent ICWA news.