Column on Wayne County and ICWA in Chronicle for Social Change

Here

Some notes.

It’s a federal requirement to inquire about a child’s tribal citizenship regardless of state law. There are eight states with comprehensive state ICWA laws (the article is missing California and Wisconsin), and that doesn’t count states that have incorporated the regulations into law (Louisiana) or have other elements of ICWA in their laws.

I know the lawyer he is referring to–s/he did not drive 300 miles for every hearing, but when no one would call the tribe back or answer the phone for a hearing s/he sure did.

ICWA is a remedial statute designed to change state practice, not tribal.

It might be worth mentioning that Michigan has twelve federally recognized tribes, and while the total population of Native children might be small, we are still putting Native children in foster care at disproportionate rates–that said, it’s difficult to tell given the issues with our data collection.

And finally, if you are wondering what ICWA/MIFPA inquiry looks like in Wayne County, here is a colloquy from an unpublished case four years ago:

The Court: All right, the petition is authorized. The children have been
placed with relatives. What else? I guess— is that it? Did anyone ever ask
is there any . . . American Indian heritage in this family? American Indian
heritage?
Ms. Safran (attorney for respondent [parent]): Do you have any Indian heritage in your family?
The Court: Cherokee, Chippewa.
Ms. Safran: There might be some grand— on the grandmother’s side,
what was it? Some time— some type; attenuated.
Ms. Trott (attorney for petitioner [state]): Ms. Topp was told no at the
other—
Ms. Safran: Well, we didn’t have all the parties.
Ms. Topp (case worker): I talked to [respondent], as well, in the police station[,] and I was told no.
Ms. Safran: She doesn’t think—
The Court:  You don’t have any kind— are you sure it’s American, or, any
idea what we’re talking about? I mean, what kind of Indian? Cherokees,
Chippewa? I mean, there’s a whole bunch.
Unidentified speaker: I don’t— I don’t know; I can ask.
The Court: And . . . what relative? Grandma? Great-grandma?
Ms. Safran:  Your Honor, can we get a date because . . . they want me in
[Judge] Slavens[’ courtroom] and I can’t believe it.
The Court:  ­You’ve got to wait just one second. All right, you can investigate and see. That’s pretty distant; great-grandma is pretty far back. So, I’m
not gonna demand that we send notice.
Ms. Trott: This is on the paternal side? Or maternal? Of which father?
The Court: On the mother’s side or father? It better be a maternal because
right now— all right. You have the right to have this heard by a referee as
to all the children . . . or by a judge with or without a jury, and, of course,
continued right to an attorney at all hearings. We’re setting this for trial?
Ms. Trott:  Yes.

In re Harrell, No. 316067, 2014 WL 465718, at *6-7 (Mich. Ct. App. Feb. 4, 2014)

 

Reason to Know [ICWA] Out of the Ohio Court of Appeals

2019-ohio-178

In most states, this would most certainly be reason to know, and the agency would be required to do additional inquiry and notify a tribe. When we talk about inconsistent application of the law, this is definitely one of those areas.

With respect to Mother, the following exchange took place:

[MOTHER]: My dad is an Iroquois tribe, but I don’t know if he’s registered, but, I mean, his family is all native Americans and stuff. Yes, they are.

[COUNSEL]: But what we need to know is whether you yourself are registered with a tribe.

[MOTHER]: Oh, no.

[COUNSEL]: You’re not. Okay. That’s what we needed. Thank you, your Honor.

THE COURT: Okay.

[COUNSEL]: So ICWA does not apply then. THE COURT: Okay. You’re definitely not registered?

[MOTHER]: No, sir. (Jan. 16, 2018 tr. 5-6.) {¶23}

Thus neither L.D. nor S.D. are members of a tribe, and Mother, herself, is not a member of any tribe. Although Mother alleged that her father is an Iroquois, L.D. and S.D. are not his children; they are his grandchildren. As previously stated, the ICWA defines an “Indian child” as any minor child who is either a member of an Indian tribe or “is eligible for membership in an Indian tribe and is the biological child of a member of an Indian tribe.” 25 U.S.C. 1903(4) (Emphasis added.) A grandchild of a member of an Indian tribe falls outside the definition and therefore does not qualify as an “Indian child” under the act. Therefore, the ICWA is inapplicable, and the trial court was not required to comply with its mandates.

Rare Published Notice Opinion out of California Court of Appeals

In re EH (Fourth District, 1st Div). For reference, so far this year California has had 48 unpublished notice decisions and 19 unpublished inquiry decisions. This is the first published notice case this year.

We agree with Mother that, considering Sally Y.H.’s statement to the Agency that her paternal family had Tohono O’odham Nation heritage, the Agency had a duty to attempt to obtain Sally Y.H.’s father’s identifying information and to provide notice of any such information obtained to the Tohono O’odham Nation. We further conclude that the Agency has not demonstrated that it fulfilled that duty by providing the Tohono O’odham Nation with information pertaining to an individual named Bruno Y. since it is not clear from the record that Bruno Y. is Sally Y.H.’s father. Moreover, if Bruno Y. is Sally Y.H.’s father, and E.H.’s great-great-grandfather, the Agency failed to properly describe his ancestral relationship to E.H. on the notice provided to the Tohono O’odham Nation. Finally, given that Sally Y.H. told the Agency that her paternal family had heritage from the Tohono O’odham Nation, we cannot conclude that the Agency’s errors were harmless. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment for the limited purpose of having the Agency provide the Tohono O’odham Nation with proper notice of the proceedings in this case, including accurate information pertaining to all known direct lineal ancestors of E.H., in accordance with all applicable law.3

***

FN 3. Mother also contends that the notice that the Agency provided to the Tohono O’odham Nation was deficient for several additional reasons, including that the Agency erred in listing her current address as being “no information available,” and in failing to update the notice when information about her residence became available. In light of our reversal, we need not consider these contentions, but we direct the juvenile court to ensure that the Agency provides Mother’s correct current address at the time of noticing upon remand, if known.

In addition, Mother contends that the Agency provided the tribe an incorrect address for Sally Y.H. The Agency concedes that the address that it provided for Sally Y.H. contained typographical errors, including listing the city of her residence as ” ‘Alpaso’ ” rather than ” ‘El Paso,’ ” but argues that any errors were harmless. In support of its harmlessness argument, the Agency asks this court to take judicial notice of the fact that “El Paso is a city in the state of Texas and Alpaso is not.” The juvenile court is directed to ensure that the Agency provides Sally Y.H.’s correct current address at the time of noticing upon remand, if known. We deny the Agency’s request for judicial notice as moot.

Finally, Mother states that the Agency was required to list Mother’s and Sally Y.H.’s telephone numbers on the notice that it provided to the Tohono O’odham Nation. On remand, the juvenile court shall direct the Agency to provide Mother’s and Sally Y.H.’s telephone numbers, if known. (See Welf. & Inst. Code, § 224.2 [specifying that notice sent to a tribe shall include “[a]ll names known of the Indian child’s biological parents . . . and great-grandparents . . . as well as their current and former addresses, birthdates, places of birth and death, tribal enrollment numbers, and any other identifying information, if known”], italics added; unless otherwise specified, all subsequent statutory references are to the Welfare and Institutions Code.)

***

This argument is unpersuasive since the letter from the Tohono O’odham Nation does not indicate the basis upon which the tribe made its determination as to E.H.’s Indian child status. Nor can we agree with the Agency’s suggestion that the fact that the Tohono O’odham Nation did not ask for further information demonstrates that the Agency’s error was harmless. The tribe was not required to ask the Agency to provide information that the record indicates the Agency should have reasonably attempted to obtain and provide to the tribe. Thus, we decline to find the Agency’s error harmless simply because the tribe did not indicate that further information might have altered its determination, particularly given the other noticing errors acknowledged by the Agency.

Two Published Colorado Court of Appeals ICWA Cases

In this opinion, the Court held ICWA applies to any proceeding that may lead to a foster care placement–even if the child is placed with a parent. These are important cases because the state can have jurisdiction over a family even if the child is placed in the home. Indeed, ICWA is written assuming the state will work to “prevent the breakup” of the Indian family.

The Department initiated this proceeding after an emergency proceeding in which it removed the child from his parents’ care. At the shelter hearing, the court granted the Department’s request to return the child home. But the court was not bound to follow the
Department’s recommendation. That is, although the shelter hearing did not result in foster care placement, it could have. And, because the dependency and neglect action remains open, the Department could request custody and foster care placement at any
time. For purposes of ICWA, it is immaterial that the child is not presently placed out of the home

Unlike other cases that addressed this issue, this is a very straightforward reading of the law and regulations.

In the second opinion, the Court of Appeals raised the issue of inquiry sua sponte (!).

The juvenile court must ask each participant on the record at the beginning of every emergency, voluntary, or involuntary child custody proceeding whether the participant knows or has reason to know that the child is an Indian child. 25 C.F.R. § 23.107(a) (2017); see also L.L., ¶ 19. Termination of parental rights is one type of child custody proceeding under ICWA. 25 U.S.C. § 1903(1) (2012). The inquiry must be made at the commencement of the proceeding and all responses should be on the record. 25 C.F.R.
§ 23.107(a).

If there was ever a question of whether judicial education (and good clerks with Indian law backgrounds) makes a difference, here you go.

Montana Supreme Court: State has Duty to Actively Determine if Child is Indian Child

Here.

In this case, as early as 2014, the State, through the Department, had reason to believe and, as asserted in its various petition averments and request for the District Court to proceed under ICWA, did believe that L.D. was an Indian child by affiliation with the Chippewa Cree Tribe. Though it gave due notice to the Tribe of the pendency of the initial foster care and subsequent parental rights termination proceedings, there is no evidence that the Department ever formally sought or received a conclusive tribal determination that L.D. was or was not eligible for tribal enrollment. Instead, the Department passively relied on the inaction of the Tribe and the assertions or beliefs of the parents that L.D. was not eligible for tribal membership. However otherwise reasonable, this passive reliance was insufficient to satisfy the Department’s ICWA burden to actively investigate further and ultimately make formal inquiry with the Tribe for a conclusive determination of L.D.’s membership eligibility.

Also, with briefing (a rarity in ICWA cases)!

DA 17-0419AppellantBrief

DA 17-0419AppelleeBrief

DA 17-0419ReplyBrief

Colorado Court of Appeals Case on Inquiry for ICWA

Here

This is a special one:

 In this case, the trial court first inquired about the applicability of ICWA at a termination hearing regarding J.A. after orally ordering termination of parental rights. For purposes of ICWA, this was the second child-custody proceeding involving J.A. Under 25 C.F.R. § 23.107(a), the trial court should have made that inquiry at the first hearing after the petition in dependency and neglect was filed and again at the start of the termination proceeding.

(emphasis in original)

It continues:

The Department asserts that mother did not provide a relative affidavit identifying her biological parents. It is true that the Department should try to provide sufficient information for the tribe to make the determination as to whether the child is a member or eligible for membership. L.L., ¶ 37. But the lack of complete information does not relieve the Department of its duty to send notice with the information it has. Accord 25 C.F.R. § 23.111(d)(3) (notice shall include direct lineal ancestors if known). Thus, we must remand the case to the trial court so the Department may comply with the notice requirements of ICWA.

At the termination hearing, mother’s counsel stated that he had spoken with mother’s adoptive family and determined that “the ICWA relationship that [mother] had brought to the [c]ourt’s attention was not viable.” But he did not elaborate, so we don’t know the basis for his representation. Moreover, it was for the Kiowa and Pueblo of Taos tribes, not mother’s adoptive family, to determine whether the children were members or eligible for membership.

(Emphasis added).

The Court of Appeals remanded the case, focusing on the Guidelines and Regulations:

We recognize that the 2015 Guidelines, unlike the regulations promulgated in 2016, were not binding on the trial court. But, as recognized by both the 2015 Guidelines and the 2016 Guidelines, early identification of ICWA applicability promotes proper implementation of ICWA at an early stage, protects the rights of Indian children and their families, prevents delays, and avoids sometimes tragic consequencesSee 2016 Guidelines at 11; 80 Fed. Reg. at 10,148.

Regardless, as discussed above, the termination proceeding was subject to the 2016 Guidelines and regulations. And, more importantly, the Department failed to send notice to the appropriate tribes when mother identified a reason to believe the children were Indian children. Under these circumstances, the record does not support the trial court’s finding that ICWA does not apply.

(Emphasis added, if we had a nickel for every time any ICWA trainer said that, etc.)

ICWA Inquiry Case out of Colorado Court of Appeals

Here.

To decide if the trial court complied with ICWA, we must answer a question that has yet to be decided in Colorado: When a trial court inquires at an initial temporary custody hearing at the commencement of the dependency and neglect proceeding whether there is a reason to know that the child is an Indian child, must it make another inquiry when termination is sought? We conclude that the answer is “yes,” at least when the court has not already identified the child as an Indian child and the petitioning party has not disclosed what efforts it has made to determine if the child is an Indian child.

Another (unpublished) Arkansas ICWA Case Lacking Strong Parent Representation

Here. Another reason for more parent attorney partnerships and training. Matthew noted this happened last September in Arkansas too. From the opinion, it’s not remotely clear the agency notified the Cherokee tribes of dad’s claim here.

In addition to the termination of Daniel’s parental rights, the trial court found ICWA did not apply. His counsel explains that this finding does not provide a meritorious basis for reversal, and we agree. Daniel attempted to establish the applicability of ICWA at the outset of the termination hearing—despite the fact the trial court had earlier determined that ICWA did not apply in the probable-cause order dated July 8, 2015. The only documentation he submitted in support of his assertion was a form application for membership in the Cherokee Nation he filed only a couple of days prior to the hearing. In order to establish the applicability of ICWA, a child who is the subject of a dependency neglect action must be an “Indian child,” which is defined as any unmarried person who is under eighteen and is either (a) a member of an Indian tribe or (b) is eligible for membership in an Indian tribe and is the biological child of a member of an Indian tribe. 25 U.S.C. § 1903(4). Here, there was no evidence A.B. and D.B. satisfied these requirements. It is undisputed the children are not members of an Indian tribe, and the only evidence submitted was the form application prepared by Daniel two days before the hearing—there was no evidence the application had been accepted or that the children were in any other way eligible for membership, and there was not even any evidence Daniel was their biological father, although he did not dispute that fact. This issue provides no meritorious basis for reversal.

In more than one state, this would provide a meritorious basis for remand at minimum, and maybe reversal. It’s fair that it might not yet be a basis for reversal in Arkansas, but it’s clearly time for someone to bring the argument.

 

(Why yes, I am currently on a four hour flight, and have a backlog of ICWA cases to post . . .)

Published ICWA Inquiry Case from Colorado Court of Appeals

Here.

The court found that the agency has to ask about tribal citizenship each time a the agency initiates proceedings against a parent, and not rely on findings in a separate, previous proceeding.

Moreover, while not applicable here, we note that new federal regulations that codify this inquiry obligation became effective on December 12, 2016. See 25 C.F.R. §§ 23.107-.109, .111 (2016). The new regulations were quickly followed by new guidelines issued in December 2016. See Bureau of Indian Affairs, Guidelines for Implementing the Indian Child Welfare Act (Dec. 2016),https://perma.cc/3TCH-8HQM (2016 Guidelines). Consistent with the 2015 Guidelines applicable here, these new regulations and guidelines require the court to ask all participants in the case whether there is reason to know the child is an Indian child and to instruct the participants to inform the court if they later discover information that provides reason to know the child is an Indian child. See 25 C.F.R. § 23.107(a); 2016 Guidelines at 11. And, if a new child custody proceeding is initiated for the same child, the court must again inquire into whether there is a reason to know that the child is an Indian child. 25 C.F.R. § 23.107(a).