NARF

Conference Focuses on ICWA

Tekamuk Training and Events, a wholly-owned enterprise of the Mesa Grande Band of Mission Indians, has joined forces with Columbia Law School, the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), and the National American Indian Judges Association to present the Indian Child Welfare Summit, a major national conference on the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), December 7-9 in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Read more at the Native American Times website.

Panel: Baby Veronica – Texting Paternity Away and Bringing ICWA into 21st Century

The 2014 FBA Indian Law Conference includes this panel:
Thursday, April 10, 2014 – Morning Session
PANEL 1. BABY VERONICA – TEXTING PATERNITY AWAY AND BRINGING ICWA INTO 21ST CENTURY
Natalie Landreth, Senior Attorney, Native American Rights Fund (Moderator)

  • Anita Fineday, Director, Casey Family Program, Indian Child Welfare Program
  • Heather Kendall-Miller, Senior Attorney, Native American Rights Fund
  • Sara Hill, Senior Assistant Attorney General for the Cherokee Nation
  • Jack Trope, Executive Director, Association on American Indian Affairs

    Learn more about this conference at the Federal Bar website.

NARF Files Civil Rights Case Filed on Behalf of Baby Veronica

Read the press release.
Read the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in South Carolina.

From the press release…The litigation was filed on behalf of Veronica, by Angel Smith, an attorney appointed as counsel for the child by the courts of the Cherokee Nation, in U.S. District Court in South Carolina, and asks the Court to determine whether Veronica has a constitutionally protected right to a meaningful hearing in the state courts to determine what is in her best interests. Furthermore, the litigation asserts that Veronica, as an “Indian child” under the Indian Child Welfare Act, has a federally protected right to have the state courts fully consider and appropriately weigh her best interests as an Indian child. Daniel E. Martin, Jr., the judge for the family court system of South Carolina, is named as the defendant in the suit.

Tribal Leaders and Organizations Denounce the South Carolina Supreme Court’s Decision and Announce Pursuit of Civil Rights Lawsuit for “Baby Veronica”

Native American Rights Fund, National Congress of American Indians, and National Indian Child Welfare Association announce pursuit of civil rights lawsuit for Baby Veronica.

Three of the nation’s leading tribal organizations announced today they are in the early stages of pursuing litigation to protect the civil rights of Veronica Brown, acitizen of the Cherokee Nation who has been denied due process in the South Carolina courts.

Read more at the NARF news blog.

Leonhard: ‘Human and Constitutional Rights’ Violated in Baby Veronica Case

Brent Leonhard, an attorney for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Oregon, was asked by Indian Country Today Media Network to weigh in on the controversy over the South Carolina Supreme Court ruling to remove three-year-old Veronica Brown from her biological father and give her to an adoptive couple.

Read more at the Indian Country Today website.

 

Politico Op-Ed from Echohawk, Pata, and Cross about “Adoptive Parents v. Baby Girl”

John Echohawk, Executive Director of the Native American Rights Fund; Jacqueline Pata, Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians; and Terry Cross, Executive Director of the National Indian Child Welfare Association, have published an op-ed in Politico on Adoptive Parents v. Baby Girl, which was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court today.  To read the op-ed, click here.

April 15, 2013: Teleconference on ICWA Supreme Court Case

Supreme Court BuildingThe Tribal Supreme Court Project – the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) and the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) – along with the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA), will host a national teleconference and briefing to review the arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl.

During the call, participants will hear from a variety of individuals, legal experts, and leaders regarding the case before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, April 16, 2013.

 To call in to this operated assisted call dial (877) 856-2376

Click here to RSVP in advance.

 Schedule of Call

  • Introductory Statements by Tribal Supreme Court Project – NARF & NCAI – and NICWA
  • Statement by Chief Bill John Baker of the Cherokee Nation
  • Statements by John Nichols & Shannon Jones – Legal Representation for Brown Family
  • Statements by Amicus Briefs in Support
    • Casey Family Programs Brief – Martin Guggenheim
    • Adult Adoptees Brief – Diane Tells His Name
    • History of ICWA – Terry Cross, National Indian Child Welfare Association
  • Question & Answer Session for Media

NARF, NCAI, and NICWA coordinate filing of amicus (friends of the court) briefs in “Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl”

US SupremeCourtBackground: Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl is a case in which the South Carolina Supreme Court held that a Native American (Indian) child could not be adopted by non-Indian parents without complying with the requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The court ordered the child returned to her biological father after she had lived with her adoptive parents from birth until 2 years of age.

In 2009, a couple from South Carolina sought to adopt an Indian child from her non-Indian single mother in Oklahoma. The biological father contested the adoption on the grounds that he was not properly notified in accordance with ICWA, and won his cases in trial court and on appeal with the state supreme court. The case has received extensive coverage in the national media, and spurred calls for Congress to review and make amendments to the 1978 law.

On October 1, 2012, the adoptive couple petitioned the United States Supreme Court to review the case. On January 4, 2013, the court granted certiorari and will hear the case on April 16, 2013.

PRESS RELEASE:

TRIBAL SUPREME COURT PROJECT PRESS RELEASE
NATIVE AMERICAN RIGHTS FUND | NATIONAL CONGRESS OF AMERICAN INDIANS IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE NATIONAL INDIAN CHILD WELFARE ASSOCIATION
For Immediate Release
March 29, 2013

Media Contacts:
Thom Wallace – National Congress of American Indians
twallace@ncai.org
O (202) 466-7767 ext. 207
C (202) 754-0466

Nicole Adams – National Indian Child Welfare Association
nicole@nicwa.org
O (503) 222-4044 ext. 133
C (503)754-0466

Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl

Amicus Briefs in Support of Brown Family Include U.S. Solicitor General, 19 States, and Broad Coalition of Supporters

Twenty-Four Briefs Call for Brown Family—Daughter, Veronica, and
Father, Dusten—to Remain Together and
Indian Child Welfare Act to Remain Intact

Brown Family, Who Have Prevailed in Every Court So Far, Will Have
Fate Decided by the Supreme Court in a Case to be Heard on April 16th

Washington, DC—The United States federal government and 19 states are among a broad coalition who filed amicus briefs yesterday with the United States Supreme Court supporting the rights of Native American father Dusten Brown and his daughter, Veronica, to remain together as a family, calling for the nation’s highest court to uphold a previous South Carolina Supreme Court decision. The well-being of Veronica, the Brown family, and the importance of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is a focus of all the briefs.

The case Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, to be heard by the Supreme Court on April 16, 2013, involves a South Carolina couple seeking review of a South Carolina Supreme Court ruling and attempting to force Dusten Brown, a member of the Cherokee Nation, to give his daughter Veronica up for adoption. Mr. Brown, who is now raising Veronica at their home in Oklahoma, has prevailed in every court that has considered this matter, including the South Carolina Family Court and the South Carolina Supreme Court.

Joining the U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli and 19 states, including 18 state attorneys general, are a large array of groups who submitted 24 separate briefs in all. The overwhelming support includes 17 former and current members of Congress; Casey Family Programs, the Children’s Defense Fund, and 16 other child welfare organizations; the American Civil Liberties Union; broad coalitions of psychology associations, child advocates, and legal experts; adult Native American adoptees; and tribal amicus briefs which include 333 American Indian tribes.

“The broad base of support in this case is historic. In the history of the work of the Tribal Supreme Court Project, no Indian law case has generated more of a unified message to the Supreme Court about Indian law,” said Richard Guest, staff attorney for the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), noting the outpouring of interest and support for Veronica, the Brown family, and ICWA.

Many of the briefs highlight the findings of the South Carolina Family Court, which found that “the birth father is a fit and proper person to have custody of his child” who “has convinced [the Court] of his unwavering love for this child,” and were upheld by the South Carolina Supreme Court.

The amicus brief of the United States federal government emphasized the importance of ICWA, stating that “the United States has a substantial interest in the case because Congress enacted ICWA in furtherance of ‘the special relationship between the United States and the Indian tribes and their members and the Federal responsibility to Indian people.'” The brief further defends the constitutionality of ICWA, arguing that “ICWA, which is predicated on Congress’s considered judgment that application of its protections serves the best interests of Indian children and protects vital interests of their parents and Tribes, does not violate any substantive due process protections.” It concludes that “[t]he South Carolina courts properly awarded custody of Baby Girl to Father.”

In the brief of leading national child welfare organizations, the best interest of the child is highlighted, in addition to the value of ICWA.

No one understands the human toll custody disputes can take more than amici, 18 child welfare organizations who have dedicated literally scores of years to the on-the-ground development and implementation of best practices and policies for child placement decision making. Amici have seen up close what works, and what does not. In amici’s collective judgment, ICWA works very well and, in fact, is a model for child welfare and placement decision making that should be extended to all children. Much forward progress in the child welfare area would be damaged by rolling the law back.

A brief from Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne was joined by attorneys general from 17 other states—Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin— and argued against interference in the relationship between states and tribes in matters regarding ICWA, asserting, “States and tribes have collaborated to ensure that the mandates and spirit of ICWA are fulfilled…. Early and complete compliance with ICWA ensures the security and stability of adoptive families as well as tribes and Indian families.” The State of Minnesota Department of Human Services also filed a brief.

Not one state submitted briefs in support of Adoptive Couple.

“This brief includes nine Republican and nine Democrat attorneys general,” said John Dossett, National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) general counsel. “Party affiliation does not matter. The federal trust responsibility is a nonpartisan commitment, which includes support for the rights of American Indian families and tribal governments to protect their Indian children—and in this case, for a loving father to be with his daughter and for her to be with her family.”

Seventeen current and former members of Congress also reflected this bipartisan support, noting in their brief the circumstances that led to the enactment of ICWA in 1978, as well as asserting Congress’s exclusive power to legislate with respect to Indian tribes. It stated:

In 1978, Congress enacted ICWA in direct response to state adoption policies that were draining Indian tribes of their future citizens. Such practices threatened the very existence of Indian tribes. Without children to grow up as their citizens, tribes would be left with no one to speak their language, carry on their traditions and culture, or participate in their tribal governments…. Ultimately, any decision limiting Congress’s authority to pass legislation like ICWA…would effectively preclude Congress from exercising its plenary authority in Indian affairs, and render Congress unable to fulfill its historic duties as trustee to the Indian tribes.

Terry Cross, executive director of the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA), commended former Senator James Abourezk for taking the lead on the brief, stating, “Senator Abourezk sponsored the bill that became ICWA because he recognized that the widespread removal of Indian children from their homes was a continuation of forced assimilation practices that had no place in our society. His leadership today sends an unmistakable message that there is unified support in defending his law from those who would return to the pre-ICWA era.”

Two national tribal amicus briefs were submitted. The first, focused on the legislative history and importance of ICWA, was submitted by the Association on American Indian Affairs, NCAI, and NICWA, who were joined by 30 Indian tribes and five Indian organizations. A second national tribal amicus brief addresses the constitutional issues raised by the petitioners and also includes 24 tribal nations and organizations. The members of the Tribal Supreme Court Project—NARF and NCAI—in partnership with NICWA, joined together to organize the briefs in support of the father. In all, 333 tribes submitted briefs in support of the father.

Oral arguments for Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl will be held on April 16, with a decision expected shortly thereafter.

All of the briefs filed by supporters of Dusten Brown’s right to raise his daughter can be found at: http://bit.ly/ZrIS22

All filings for the case can be found at: http://bit.ly/11TpaDY

More information about the case can be found at: http://www.nicwa.org/babyveronica/

Tribes line up support as Supreme Court takes up ICWA dispute (Indianz.com)

The National Congress of American Indians and the Native American Rights Fund are lining up some major support as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, an Indian Child Welfare Act case.

At least a dozen briefs will be filed in support of Dusten Brown, a member of the Cherokee Nation whose rights are at issue in the case. Briefs are coming from individual tribes, national tribal organizations, adult Indian adoptees, several states, national child welfare organizations, law professors, religious groups, psychologists’ associations, current and former members of Congress, military and veterans organizations and even the American Civil Liberties Union.

 

Read more at http://www.indianz.com/News/2013/008782.asp.

Legislative History of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (NARF)

Native American Rights Fund logoThe Native American Rights Fund (NARF) provides a full legislative history for the Indian Child Welfare Act that includes links to the full text of original bills and enacting laws as well as related hearing, reports and debates.  In addition, the page links to more recent reports, such as Indian Child Welfare Act Amendments of 1996 and Child Custody Proceedings Under the Indian Child Welfare Act: An Overview.

Find the online legislative history and related materials at http://www.narf.org/icwa/federal/lh.htm.

NARF also makes available an ICWA legislative history (with the full text of House Report No. 95-1386) in a print-friendly PDF format as an appendix to A Practical Guide to the Indian Child Welfare Act.  Download at http://www.narf.org/icwa/print/app1.pdf.

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 http://www.narf.org/icwa 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.