In Largest Settlement in its History, Canada Comes to Agreement in Principle in Child Welfare Lawsuit

NY Times Coverage here

The Canadian government announced Tuesday that it had reached what it called the largest settlement in Canada’s history, paying $31.5 billion to fix the nation’s discriminatory child welfare system and compensate the Indigenous people harmed by it.

Agreement in principle/press release here

For those who were following this case, it involves the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, which is led by Cindy Blackstock. The settlement attempts to reform Child and Family Services and address Jordan’s Principle. This is a major settlement and significant milestone for Native children and families in Canada. 

Paternity and ICWA Decision out of Colorado Court of Appeals

This is part of a small collection of state court decisions (In re B.B., Utah, Bruce L., AK) interpreting ICWA’s paternity definition, and also applying ICWA to paternity proceedings. It also addresses the issue of biological father (required by ICWA) and presumed father (defined by the Uniform Parentage Act).

ICWA Decision out of Missouri on Tribal Intervenor (Relator) Standing and Writ of Prohibition

From the facts in this opinion, it’s clear this is a pretty contested post termination of parental rights/foster care adoption case from the southern district of Missouri (Poplar Bluff, Springfield). What is not in the opinion but is available on the Westlaw decision page are the attorneys involved in the case. I’m sure it’s some local southern Missouri attorneys:

Attorneys for Relator – Heidi Doerhoff Vollet of Jefferson City, MO; James R. Layton of St. Louis, MO
Attorney for Respondent Judge – Scott S. Sifferman Acting Pro Se
Attorneys for Minor – William Petrus of Mt. Vernon, MO (GAL); Matthew D. McGillDavid W. Casazza, Robert Batista, Todd Shaw of Washington, D.C.
Attorneys for Respondents Foster Parents – Toni M. Fields of Cassville, MO; Paul Clement, Erin Murphy of Washington, D.C.; Kevin Neylan of New York, NY

Huh.

Even so! In this case, the Court of Appeals found the Choctaw Nation had standing to to bring the writ of prohibition against the judge and the Court of Appeals entered the writ (Respondent is the trial judge)(also, this is why formal legal intervention is so important for tribes whenever possible)(also why it’s good to find local family law attorneys who can talk about things like “writs of prohibition” with expertise):

In his brief, Respondent argues that the Choctaw Nation does not have standing to seek this writ of prohibition. On two occasions, Respondent granted the Choctaw Nation the right to intervene in this protective custody proceeding under 25 U.S.C. § 1911(c), and also granted the Choctaw Nation the right to intervene in Foster Parents’ adoption proceeding. We see no error in these rulings. The Choctaw Nation has standing to seek
this writ of prohibition.

***

Respondent did not have the express or implied authority to interfere in the Children’s Division’s administrative review of a nonfinal administrative recommendation for adoption, and then substitute Respondent’s judgment for that of the Children’s Division and compel the Children’s Division to reach or adhere to a particular recommendation.

Four Cert Petitions Filed in Texas v. Haaland [Brackeen ICWA Case]

Today Texas, the individual plaintiffs, the Solicitor General, and the intervening tribal nations filed petitions for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court asking the Court to review the Fifth Circuit decision regarding the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act. There will be some additional briefing over the next 30 days, and then/eventually the Court will decide whether to hear the case or not.

The Indian Law Clinic at MSU Law represents the intervening tribes in this case.

Bryan Newland Officially Confirmed as Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs

https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/politics/2021/08/07/senate-confirms-michigans-newland-lead-indian-affairs-interior-dept/7964165002/

Bryan is a double MSU grad, former tribal judge, former tribal chair, and a good friend. We are so happy for him to see the official confirmation.

Motion for Summary Judgment and Amicus Briefs in AFCARS Lawsuit [foster care and adoption data for AI/AN and LGBTQ+ kids]

Final_Motion for Summary Judgment  

Plaintiffs have standing to bring this case. Plaintiffs here include the largest federally recognized tribes in California and in the United States, a coalition of dozens of tribes located in California, a foster youth and foster care alumni organization in Alaska, and three organizations from around the country that work with LGBTQ+ foster youth and/or youth who have experienced sex or labor trafficking. Each of these Plaintiffs works to improve the living conditions of youth in child welfare systems and to reduce the chance they will end up homeless, incarcerated, or otherwise severely harmed while in care. The data that Defendants have abandoned are irreplaceable for the efficacy of these efforts. The 2020 Final Rule substantially impedes Plaintiffs’ ability to pursue their missions. It makes it harder for tribes to vindicate their and their children’s rights and to protect their children’s well-being. Likewise, the rule makes it more difficult for groups serving youth in care, including LGBTQ+ youth, to address the overrepresentation of those youth in the foster care population and to prevent their disproportionately negative experiences. The 2020 Final Rule thus injures Plaintiffs—along with the vulnerable children they serve. 

ProposedOrder

Exhibits:

App.A

App.B

App.C

App.D

App.E

App.F

American Academy of Pediatrics_Amicus_Brief

AAP_Amicus_Motion

Members Of Congress_Amicus_Brief

MOC_Amicus_Motion

The MSU Indian Law Clinic represents the plaintiffs in this case along with our excellent partners, Democracy Forward and Lambda Legal.

Decision out of the Colorado Supreme Court on the Tribal Enrollment Hearing

The Indian Law Clinic represented the Chickasaw Nation in this case.

In their petitions, the parties asked us to address whether (1) ICWA requires
a district court to hold an enrollment hearing in circumstances like those present
here as a prerequisite to the termination of parental rights; (2) a district court can
order the Department to enroll children over a parent’s objection; and (3) the
division below erred in reversing the district court’s judgment rather than
ordering a limited remand.

All of the parties before us, and the Nation itself, agree that the division
erred in requiring an enrollment hearing. Because we perceive no statutory basis
for such a hearing, and because such a hearing conflicts with the Nation’s exclusive
right to determine who is an enrolled citizen, we agree that the division erred in
requiring such a hearing.


With respect to the second issue presented, we note that neither parent
objected to the children’s enrollment. Accordingly, the issue as presented in the
petition for certiorari is not properly before us. In their briefs, however, the parties
appear to construe the question presented more broadly, namely, as asking us to

decide whether the Department has an obligation to assist children who are
eligible for enrollment in becoming enrolled citizens of a tribal nation. Although
the issue is an important one and may call for legislative action, we conclude that
under current law, the Department has no such obligation. In certain
circumstances, however, it might well be the better practice for the Department to
advise on and perhaps assist with the enrollment process.

Marshall Project and NPR on How Alaska OCS Stole Millions from Alaska Native Foster Kids

If you, like me, enjoy starting your day with the clarifying anger of a thousand white hot fires, may I recommend this article on how various state agencies rerouted foster children’s SSI benefits to pay for their own foster care–especially impacting Alaska Native children. A few of those children are highlighted in this article:

https://www.themarshallproject.org/2021/04/22/foster-care-agencies-take-thousands-of-dollars-owed-to-kids-most-children-have-no-idea

The Marshall Project and NPR have found that in at least 36 states and Washington, D.C., state foster care agencies comb through their case files to find kids entitled to these benefits, then apply to Social Security to become each child’s financial representative, a process permitted by federal regulations. Once approved, the agencies take the money, almost always without notifying the children, their loved ones or lawyers.

At least 10 state foster care agencies hire for-profit companies to obtain millions of dollars in Social Security benefits intended for the most vulnerable children in their care each year, according to a review of hundreds of pages of contract documents. A private firm that Alaska used while Hunter was in state care referred to acquiring benefits from people with disabilities as “a major line of business” in company records.

Some states also take veterans’ benefits from children with a parent who died in the military, though this has become less common as casualties have declined since the Iraq War.