A decision to file a TPR petition should be made in light of the impediments that a parent might face as a result of the pandemic. An agency should evaluate carefully whether parents have had a meaningful opportunity to demonstrate that they have made the necessary efforts to reunify with their children before taking that step.
As such, I urge agencies to continue to consider the totality of each family’s circumstances prior to filing a TPR petition. During the pandemic and its aftermath, agencies also may want to consider instituting protocols that provide an extra layer of review prior to filing a TPR petition.
This is the appeal of the court of appeals opinion posted here.
Oral arguments here
- Answer to Petition for Review
- Petition for Review
- Amicus – Margaret Jacobs in Support of Petition for Review
- Amicus – American Indian Law Professors, Et Al in Support of Petition for Review
- Amicus – Children’s Tribes in Support of Petition for Review
- Respondents Answer to Amicus
- Petitioner’s Supplemental Brief
- Respondents Supplemental Brief
- Amicus – Youth and Children, Et Al
- Supplemental Amicus Children’s Tribes
- Amicus – American Indian Law Professors, Center for Indian Law & Policy, et al
- Respondents Answer to Amicus Brief
The MSU ICWA Appellate Project co-represented the Tribes in this case, along with the Center for Indigenous Research and Justice.
I did not talk to this reporter, but it feels like a word for word account of my classroom lecture on this issue:
The explicit coercion of that era gave way to domestic adoption industry we have today—which is regulated by an inconsistent patchwork of state laws, unlike the federal regulations applied to international and foster care adoptions. And gradually, demand grew: By the mid-70s, increased access to birth control and legalized abortion and lessening stigma of single parenthood plummeted the supply of healthy white babies. In 2014, approximately 18,000 infants were placed for domestic adoption. In 2017, the CEO of the National Council for Adoption estimated that around one million families are trying to adopt at any given time in the U.S.
I have yet to find a replacement for the type of research the Donaldson Institute did–sadly it wound down operations a couple of years ago.
These statements, however, have thus far only been focused on the need to change the means by which we exercise the police power in this country. It is, perhaps, too easy for child welfare organizations to attack a problem they have not played a significant role in creating. But these same groups have not yet turned their eyes inward to ask whether and how the system they helped build is also deeply shaped by racism.
This is a moment that also must focus on how we exercise the parens patriae power in this country (the power of the state to protect the vulnerable). This starts with a major overhaul of the Adoption and Safe Families Act, often referred to by its initials ASFA, which was signed into law in 1997.
With certain exceptions that states too often ignore, ASFA requires that child welfare agencies seek to terminate the parental rights of children whenever they have been in foster for 15 of the most recent 22 months. Courts are instructed to terminate parental rights unless the parent can show that the conditions that led to the removal initially no longer exist. The law has been responsible for the massive destruction of black and brown families. More than 2 million children’s parents’ rights have been terminated by American courts since ASFA was enacted.
This is not about the intentions of those who developed the system we have. It is about listening to the people it harms. It is an unpleasant truth that many of the organizations whose collective voice is condemning racist police practices now have for decades celebrated the approach enshrined in law by ASFA, some by explicitly celebrating adoption and others using the euphemism “permanency.”
Since April, the California courts of appeal have been wrestling with California’s new law defining “reason to know” from ICWA’s section 1912 and “reason to believe” (state law standard). In addition, the department has been regularly petitioning to make cases reported rather than unreported. Since April with the In re Austin J. case, California courts have been reshaping their very low bar for notice to tribes into a much higher one, with the caveat that the California standard of “reason to believe” does require contact with tribes though not necessarily formal notice. Given California’s outsized role in notice and inquiry ICWA cases, this is a trend that bears watching, with the understanding this is based on California state law, and not the federal ICWA.
Here is In re M.W., decided on May 11. The Department petitioned for publication on May 15 and it was published on June 5. Under the reason to believe standard, the social worker,
The report documented the social worker’s contact with the 12 tribes by telephone, fax, e-mail, and/or mail, the name of the designated agent for each tribe, the dates of attempted contact with each designated agent (all between May 15 and June 4, 2019), and that each tribe was provided with the minor’s “ICWA Family Tree.” As of the date of the report, four of the tribes had confirmed the minor was not an Indian child. As of the July 10, 2019 hearing, six additional tribes had confirmed the minor was not an Indian child, and the two remaining tribes (the Navajo Nation and the White Mountain Apache Tribe) had acknowledged contact but had not yet provided a definitive response.
I am curious to know how out of state tribes are feeling this system is working, given that while California may change its ways, tribes are generally set up to receive the paperwork to confirm a family’s tribal membership, and we already know that informal phone calls to confirm or deny a child’s eligibility can be problematic. Early outreach is great, if it works to give tribes MORE information and not less.
Kate Fort, ILPC; Annette Nickel, Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, Jade White, Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, Tamera Begay, Puyallup Tribe of Indians.
I’m awfully biased, but I thought it was a great panel, and a much needed good talk with some really amazing women today.
This is a really interesting opinion, and balances a lot of interests. The issue of how to get a child who is both eligible for tribal membership and in foster care leads to a lot of questions about who gets to make the decision of enrollment. The agency has technical decision making authority for the children, but may choose to not enroll the children–as they did in this case–thus denying the application of ICWA (and a whole host of other citizenship related benefits and responsibilities). It may even mean the child can never be members, since some tribes don’t allow adults over the age of 18 to enroll. The Colorado Court of Appeals has just decided that the Court must make the final decision in those cases about whether a child should be enrolled or not.
In this case, mom told the agency the dad had Chickasaw heritage. This was enough for the agency to send notice to the Tribe. The Tribe responded that both the dad and the children were eligible for membership in the tribe, send membership applications, and asked the agency to assist the parents in enrolling the children.
The agency did NOT enroll the children, and did NOT tell the court of the Tribe’s response. The court only became aware of the response in the petition for termination. The court found ICWA did not apply, and terminated mom’s rights. The Court of Appeals determined that was not appropriate, and has created the process of an “enrollment hearing,” where the agency must deposit the Tribe’s request for enrollment with the court, and then the court must have a hearing–
Thus, once the response from the tribe has been deposited
with the juvenile court as set forth in Part II.B, we conclude that the
court must set the matter for a hearing to determine whether it is in
the best interests of the children to enroll them in the tribe. See
People in Interest of L.B., 254 P.3d 1203, 1208 (Colo. App. 2004) (A
juvenile court “must conduct a hearing to determine the proper
disposition best serving the interests of the child.”).
¶ 23 Of course, at an enrollment hearing, as at any other hearing in
a dependency and neglect proceeding, the court must give primary
consideration to the children’s best interests. See K.D., 139 P.3d at
698; C.S., 83 P.3d at 640.
¶ 24 And, in determining the children’s best interests, the juvenile
court must hear and consider the positions of the parents, as well
as the department and the guardian ad litem (GAL), all of whom
have standing, as relevant here, to speak to the merits of the tribe’s
Though everyone can be heard, the court goes on to say,
Thus, at an enrollment hearing, the juvenile court should not
treat an objection, even from a parent, as a veto. On the contrary,
any reason for objection must be compelling considering ICWA’s
intent to maintain or foster the children’s connection with their
Of course, the Tribe sent that letter requesting assistance enrolling the children in October of … 2018. Which means, of course, the twins who were a month old in May, 2018 are now two years old, never had any ICWA protections, and will now have their case go back to the trial court for a membership determination and a re-do of their child welfare case.
Here. Due June 8.
Scope of Work: The selected contractor (attorney or law firm) will provide the following services to the Navajo Nation: Under the direction of the Navajo Nation Attorney General or her designee, the Attorneys, as independent contractors, will provide legal services to the Navajo Nation Office of the Attorney General in connection with Special Investigation and related litigation matters involving the legal interests of the Navajo Nation. Proposal should describe Attorneys expertise and work experience in the following areas:
• Special Investigation Work
• Civil and Criminal Litigation in Navajo Courts and Federal Court
• Evaluating Government Attorney Ethics Issues
Here is the new final AFCARS (Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System) rule with virtually none of the elements we asked for or worked on for the past five years with an added dollop of condescension in the response to comments.