Reason to Know Decision from NC Supreme Court [ICWA]

Opinion by Justice Beasley, putting the burden on the court to ensure inquiry and notice are done properly:

Here, the record shows that the trial court had reason to know that an Indian child might be involved. In eight separate filings, DSS indicated in its court reports that respondent-father indicated that he had Cherokee Indian heritage. Respondent-father also raised his Indian heritage during a Child and Family Team Meeting, and his comments were included in a report filed by DSS with the trial court. Although the trial court had reason to know that an Indian child might be involved in these proceedings, the trial court failed to readdress its initial finding that the Act did not apply and failed to ensure that any Cherokee tribes were actually notified.

Qualified Expert Witness Case out of Alaska [ICWA]

Here

Sometimes I read the first paragraph of a decision and just put my head on my desk. Feel free to join me today:

An Alaska Native teenage minor affiliated with the Native Village of Kotzebue (Tribe) was taken into custody by the Office of Children’s Services (OCS) and placed at a residential treatment facility in Utah. She requested a placement review hearing after being injured by a facility staff member. At the time of the hearing, the minor’s mother wanted to regain custody. At the hearing the superior court had to make removal findings under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) as well as findings authorizing continued placement in a residential treatment facility under Alaska law. ICWA requires testimony from a qualified expert witness for the removal of an Indian child. At the hearing, the minor’s Utah therapist testified as a mental health professional. The minor, as well as her parents and the Tribe, objected to the witness being qualified as an ICWA expert, but the superior court allowed it. The minor argues that the superior court erred in determining that the witness was qualified as an expert for the purposes of ICWA. Because the superior court correctly determined that knowledge of the Indian child’s tribe was unnecessary in this situation when it relied on the expert’s testimony for its ICWA findings, we affirm.

 

MILS Survey for Michigan Tribal Members

The letter:

Dear Tribal Community Member,

Michigan Indian Services (MILS) is asking for your feedback on an important survey. 

MILS provides legal services statewide to income-eligible individuals and tribes, advocates for the rights of individuals that advance systems of justice, and works to preserve Indian families through state and tribal courts.

The purpose of this survey is to identify the highest priorities related to legal services for low-income Native Americans. 

MILS will use the results to prioritize services for the next seven years, so your participation is extremely important to us.

MILS is offering an incentive drawing for a total of seven $100 gift cards for those who complete the survey over the next several months. Drawing dates are August 1, October 1, December 1, February 1, April 1, June 1, and September 30. 

You can access the survey link here. It takes about 15 minutes to complete: 

Crosscut Article on Greer Case

Here

ICWA was thereafter applied to the case, but the damage was done — the children were placed in foster care without the normal protections the law would have offered them. Now, the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska are challenging the decision in the Washington State Supreme Court. If the court’s decision is upheld, advocates say the case could significantly weaken the use of ICWA in Washington by raising the bar for what qualifies as a “reason to know” that a child is “Indian” in the eyes of the law.

Kathryn Fort, director of Michigan State’s Indian Law Clinic, who is arguing on behalf of the tribes in the case involving Greer and Graham, says that it shouldn’t be so difficult. The burden of checking in with a tribe is low, she says, but the outcome has immense implications for the family, children and tribe.

Briefing and oral arguments here.

Children’s Bureau Letter on Termination of Parental Rights During COVID

Childrens-Bureau-Letter-Termination-of-Parental-Rights-and-Adoption-Assistance

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.