Reason to Know Decision from Washington Court of Appeals [ICWA]

Here.

ICWA and WICWA require a court conducting a 72-hour shelter care hearing to inquire whether the child is or may be an Indian child. A court substantially complies with that requirement if prior to the hearing the Department has begun a good faith investigation into the child’s Indian status, the parties elicit the relevant evidence during the hearing, and the court considers that evidence before ruling on shelter care.

Ok, sounds good.

The reason-to-know standard turns on evidence that the child is a tribal member, or the child is eligible for tribal membership and a biological parent is a tribal member. If there is a reason to know a child is or may be an Indian child, then ICWA and WICWA require the court to treat the child as an Indian child pending a conclusive membership determination by a tribe. A parent’s mere assertion of Indian heritage absent other evidence is not enough to establish a reason to know a child is or may be an Indian child. Because the Department’s good faith investigation before the shelter care hearing did not reveal evidence that a parent or a child was a tribal member, the court did not err in concluding that there was no reason to know the children were Indian children based on the evidence available at the time of the shelter care hearing, Of course, the Department has an obligation to continue its investigation before proceeding to a dependency or termination hearing.

Oohkay. Then what did the investigation reveal?

The investigation revealed that the mother was eligible in the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida, where her mother is enrolled, the Klawock Cooperative Association, and that father was potentially eligible at Umatilla.  This was not just the parent’s assertion (which frankly, given the specificity, should be enough*)–this included the testimony of the social worker who called Central Council. It turns out what this Court means by reason to know is actual evidence of membership:

Because the Department’s good faith investigation before the shelter care hearing did not reveal evidence that a parent or a child was a tribal member,

The children were removed on June 27. The first hearing (shelter care) took place on July 2-3. At that point, the state social worker had called Central Council and knew grandma was enrolled, but not mom. She then testified that “to her knowledge”, dad was not enrolled, but there is nothing in the opinion on how she would know that. The social worker then testifies it was possible the children were eligible for enrollment.  But then, the court’s shelter care order states there is “not a reason to know” the children are Indian children. When Central Council intervenes in the case on July 30, the Court then decided there was reason to know (well, yes, because then we all know).

Everyone knows (ahem) that three-five days is not enough time for a full notice as required by the law (by mail, return receipt requested). Those of us who do this work ALSO know it may take a tribe longer than that to determine membership. The purpose of the Regs (to treat potential/reason to know Indian children as Indian children until determined otherwise) was to ensure those children were treated as Indian children until membership is all sorted out. The Washington Court of Appeals manages to do the opposite–equating “reason to know” with just plain old “know”. Why does this all matter? The legal standard applied at the shelter care hearing:

Specifically, the information before the court at the shelter care hearing as a
result of the Department’s good faith investigation did not establish a reason to know Z.G. and M.G. were Indian children. Because there was no reason to know,
the normal serious threat of substantial harm standard applied at the shelter care hearing.

Unless a Tribe responds the parent is absolutely a member at that first phone call from the state (not even legally required notice), or the parent happens to have legal evidence of membership on him or her, Washington will claim there is no reason to know, and apply a lower burden of proof than the emergency standard required by ICWA under 1922.

*I decided not to rant about why the parent’s testimony isn’t enough/why parents in court aren’t listened to, but imagine I did.

Published Notice Case from California Court of Appeals [ICWA]

Here

One might think, given that as of the end of July, California had more than 70 ICWA notice violation cases and in 41 one of them (fifty six percent of the time) the appellate court sent it back down to get inquiry and notice correct, the state agency might spend less time arguing why they shouldn’t do notice at all and instead just do notice right the first time. Also, this is one of those cases that makes me furious given that the Tribe intervened in mother’s case when SHE was a dependent child. But instead, let’s look at what the state argued it should do rather than give notice to the Picayune Rancheria:

It is well established that a non-Indian parent has standing to assert an ICWA notice violation on appeal. (In re Jonathon S. (2005) 129 Cal.App.4th 334, 339.) Nonetheless, the County argues that this court does not have jurisdiction, the case is not ripe for appeal, and parents do not have standing because they did not first bring a petition for invalidation in the juvenile court.

***

The County argues that because this specific remedy [25 U.S.C. 1914]  for ICWA violations exists, appeal is an improper remedy. It argues that a petition for invalidation is the exclusive remedy available for ICWA notice and inquiry violations and, as such, parents were required to unsuccessfully pursue such a petition in the juvenile court prior to seeking relief on appeal. Because they did not do so, it reasons, this court is without jurisdiction to hear their appeal.

Yet despite arguing that a petition for invalidation is the exclusive remedy for an ICWA violation, the County also argues parents do not have standing to file such a petition for invalidation. It argues the petition is only available to parents of Indian children—not parents of a potential Indian child for whom ICWA inquiry and notice was not effectuated. (emphasis added)

***

We also decline the County’s invitation to reexamine the “non-forfeiture doctrine”—or, more accurately described as the principle that a parent is not foreclosed from raising an ICWA inquiry or notice violation even if the issue could have been more timely raised by appeal from an earlier order.

***

Again, the County suggests we revisit established case law and depart from the requirement that the agency give ICWA notice to tribes when there is reason to know a child may be eligible for membership and require notice only when the court knows or has reason to know the child is definitively a member (or knows a parent is definitively a member and the child is eligible for membership). We decline the invitation.

Therefore,

Here, having reason to know the minor may be an Indian child, the juvenile court ordered the County to provide notice to the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians tribe in accordance with the ICWA. The County knew that the maternal grandfather was a member of that tribe and that he lived on the tribe’s reservation. It also knew, or should have known, that mother was found to be an Indian child when she was a dependent of the court and that the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians tribe had intervened in that case. We conclude, as did the juvenile court in this case, that the County was required to send ICWA notice to the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians tribe in this case. (emphasis added)

And the kicker (court’s emphasis not italics, mine in red):

Here, the County sent notice to the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians tribe on January 25, 2016, of the “Pre-Jurisdictional Status Conference,” which was scheduled for February 9, 2016. The juvenile court was apprised that the tribe had not received the notice but proceeded with the hearing, which was ultimately held on February 23, 2016. Thereafter, no notice of any subsequent hearing was ever sent to either the tribe or the BIA. Nonetheless, the court held the jurisdiction and disposition hearing on February 23, 2016, sustained the petition, removed the minor, and ordered reunification services. After that hearing, the County “resent” notice—apparently resending the same documents (i.e. the family history, section 300 petition, and notice of the then-passed February 9, 2016 hearing date)—thus, only providing the tribe with notice of a hearing which had already passed. The tribe received that notice on March 3, 2016. On April 26, 2016, less than 60 days thereafter, the juvenile court held an unnoticed ICWA compliance hearing and found the ICWA did not apply.

 

New Mexico Notice and Time Frame Case from Court of Appeals [ICWA]

Children, Youth & Families Department v. Tanisha G. and Isaac G.

This is an interesting and remarkable case, and a way to deal with continued notice violations and delay by an agency. Here are the highlights of this disturbing case of agency overreach:

CYFD took Child, then age four, into custody on January 26, 2018, after the 12 Bernalillo County Sheriffs Office executed a warrant for Father’s arrest, leaving no caregiver in the home to care for Child.

***

Parents were served with the petition on February 6, 2018. By that time, Father  had been released from custody and the charges against him dropped; his arrest was apparently the product of mistaken identity.

Meanwhile,

In the ensuing seventy-seven days, the parties appeared for three hearings: a status conference on February 27, 2018, and two adjudicatory hearings that had been set for April 2, 2018, and April 24, 2018, respectively. The district court declined to 14 commence the adjudication on either April 2 or April 24, however, because although CYFD had mailed ICWA notices to several tribal entities on February 8, 2018, and the tribal entities had received those notices shortly thereafter, CYFD had not filed proof of service to establish receipt in the record.

On April 25, 2018, Parents filed separate motions to dismiss, arguing that 19 CYFD had failed to commence the adjudication within sixty days as required by the Abuse and Neglect Act.

THEN,

The district court heard the motions to dismiss on the morning of May 24, 6 2018, at which time CYFD orally moved for an extension of time to commence the adjudicatory hearing. The district court denied CYFD’s request, noting that the court and parties had attempted multiple times to commence the adjudication, that CYFD’s failure to comply with ICWA’s notice requirements had precluded the court from timely adjudicating the matter, that the court had reminded CYFD that the time limits were running, and that CYFD had failed to file a motion to extend the time limits when the parties were last in court.  The district court granted the Parents’ motions to dismiss the petition with prejudice.

Hours later, Father filed an emergency motion for contempt of court, stating that arrangements had been made for Child to be reunited with Parents at 11: 15 a.m., but CYFD refused to return Child. The district court conducted an emergency hearing at 3:00 p.m., during which CYFD stated that it intended to file a motion to reconsider or, alternatively, to stay the judgment. The district court admonished CYFD for keeping Child without jurisdiction and ordered reunification before 5:00 p.m. that day, which occurred. CYFD appeals the district court’s dismissal order.

The Court of Appeals upholds the lower courts dismissal and ADDS THIS:

Finally, we briefly address CYFD’s assertion that the district court “was … inexplicably dismissive of [CYFD]’s concerns for Child’s welfare, which is not only an abuse of discretion, but demonstrates a conscious disregard by the [district] court of its statutory duty to ensure that ‘a child’s health and safety shall be the paramount concern.'” Contrary to CYFD’s characterization, however, we note that the district court heard from Father’s attorney that the conditions in the home had been remedied. The guardian ad litem (GAL) reiterated that Parents’ attorneys had suggested that the home was now clean and safe for Child. The GAL stated that Child and Parents share a strong bond and that Child was suffering from anxiety due to his separation from Parents. The GAL believed it was safe to return Child to  Parents. Moreover, the criminal allegations against Father, which had brought Child into CYFD’s custody in the first place, were a product of mistaken identity and had been dismissed months earlier. Based upon this testimony, we disagree with CYFD’s characterization that the district court disregarded Child’s health and safety.

Notice Case out of Alabama [ICWA]

Here.

Sometimes even I am struck dumb by the notice cases:

A second form, dated in 2017 and signed by C.L.B., was also introduced into evidence. C.L.B. testified that his mother had assisted him in completing the 2017 form. On the 2017 form, C.L.B. listed Cherokee and “Ojibwa-(Chippewa)” as the tribes in which he, B.E.B., or one of B.E.B.’s paternal grandparents might have membership.

Star Pope testified that, at the direction of C.L.B., she had inquired of the paternal grandmother of B.E.B. regarding with which tribes C.L.B.’s family might be affiliated. She testified that the paternal grandmother of B.E.B. had informed her that C.L.B. was not affiliated with the Cherokee or Sioux tribes but that she had identified the Chippewa or Ojibwe tribe as a possibility. Pope testified that she had contacted authorities in several different states and that she had eventually been directed to a central location to which, she said, she had mailed a letter requesting information concerning whether B.E.B. would be recognized as an Indian child or have benefits under the ICWA. DHR introduced into evidence a letter dated May 4, 2016, that had been mailed to the ICWA representative from the Chippewa Indians of Mackinac, Michigan . . .

DHR also introduced a letter from the Bay Mills Indian Community dated May 19, 2016, in response to an inquiry from DHR; that letter indicated that B.E.B. was not eligible for membership in the Bay Mills Indian Community.

 

Montana Supreme Court on Reason to Know [ICWA]

Here.

And a long excerpt:

Contrary to the Department’s assertion and the apparent corresponding view of the District Court, the “reason to know” standard does not necessarily require an evidentiary showing, and certainly not by the parents, that a child or parent may be eligible for tribal membership. See 25 U.S.C. § 1912(a); 25 C.F.R. §§ 23.107-08. Nor does ICWA require that an assertion of potential tribal eligibility be certain. Gerardo, 14 Cal. Rptr. 3d at 802; Kahlen, 285 Cal. Rptr. at 511. See also 25 C.F.R. §§ 23.107(a), (c), -108(a). Any more stringent construction as suggested by the State would defeat ICWA’s manifest purpose and command. Certainly, a “reason to know” is a low standard, but not an unlimited one. In re Jeremiah G., 92 Cal. Rptr. 3d 203, 207-08 (Cal. App. 2009); In re Z.H., 740 N.W.2d 648, 653-54 (Iowa App. 2007). A “reason to know” requires something more than a bare, vague, or equivocal assertion of possible Indian ancestry without reference to any identified Indian ancestors with a reasonably suspected tribal connection. See Jeremiah G., 92 Cal. Rptr. 3d at 207-08; Z.H., 740 N.W.2d at 653-54. Pursuant to 25 C.F.R. § 23.107(c)(1), Mother’s asserted belief that she may be eligible for enrollment in the Crow Tribe was minimally sufficient to constitute a reason to know that the children were Indian children under the circumstances of this case.

¶22 We are further troubled by the Department’s apparent view that it has no affirmative duty to make further inquiry or provide tribal notice and inquiry when parents are not cooperative. Lack of parental cooperation is immaterial, is not a basis for equitable waiver or estoppel, and does not otherwise relieve state agencies and courts of the duty to comply with ICWA requirements. Kahlen 285 Cal. Rptr. at 512. ICWA vests Indian children and related Indian tribes with a federal right, independent of but on par with the right of Indian and related Indian tribes with a federal right, independent of but on par with the right of Indian parents, to specified tribal notice and eligibility determinations regardless of the conduct or disregard of the parents. Miss. Band of Choctaw Indians, 490 U.S. at 49-53, 109 S. Ct. at 1609-11; Kahlen, 285 Cal. Rptr. at 512. The practical difficulty or inability of a state agency to identify the correct tribe or substantiate an assertion of requisite Indian ancestry does not relieve the agency of its duty to comply with ICWA requirements. See Kahlen, 285 Cal. Rptr. at 512.

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.

Montana Supreme Court ICWA Notice Case

Here

¶28 In this case, CPS Lebrun’s testimony that an unidentified person orally confirmed that “they are not eligible, just they can only be descendent members” does not satisfy the Department’s ICWA burden. As a direct result of the Department’s failure to satisfy this burden—and likely assuming the Department had, prior to filing its Notice of No ICWA Involvement, followed up with formal inquiry with the Blackfeet Tribe as CPS Lebrun testified he would—the District Court proceeded to termination without conclusive determination from the Tribe. No documentation or testimony of an authorized tribal representative either dispelled or confirmed the District Court’s and Department’s belief that the children were not Indian children as defined by ICWA. Under the circumstances of this case, we hold the District Court erred by proceeding to terminate Mother’s rights to D.E. and A.E. without a conclusive tribal determination of their tribal membership status and eligibility.
¶29 Accordingly, we hold the District Court abused its discretion in terminating Mother’s parental rights without a conclusive tribal determination of tribal membership status and enrollment eligibility. We reverse and remand for an appropriate threshold determination of whether D.E. and A.E. are Indian children based on a conclusive tribal determination of tribal membership and eligibility in the Blackfeet Tribe. Further, if D.E. and A.E. are conclusively identified as Indian children subject to the requirements of ICWA, the District Court shall hold further proceedings as may be necessary to meet the evidentiary burdens of ICWA.

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North Carolina “Reason to Know” ICWA Notice Case

Here.

*Whether the evidence presented at the adjudication hearing should have caused the trial court to have reason to know an “Indian child” may be involved and trigger the notice requirement is the issue before us. The federal regulations implementing ICWA and promulgated in 2016, clearly the states court has reason to know an “Indian child” is involved if: “Any participant in the proceeding, officer of the court involved in the proceeding, Indian Tribe, Indian organization, or agency informs the court that it has discovered information indicating that the child is an Indian child.” 25 C.F.R. § 23.107(c)(2) (2018).

The ICWA proscribes that once the court has reason to know the child could be an “Indian child,” but does not have conclusive evidence, the court should confirm and “work with all of the Tribes … to verify whether the child is in fact a member.” 25 C.F.R. § 23.107(b)(1). Federal law provides: “No foster care placement or termination of parental rights proceeding shall be held until at least ten days after receipt of notice by the parent or Indian custodian and the tribe or the Secretary[.]” 25 U.S.C. § 1912(a). Further, a court must “[t]reat the child as an Indian child, unless and until it is determined on the record that the child does not meet the definition of an ‘Indian child.’ ” 25 C.F.R. § 23.107(b)(2).

Other jurisdictions have recognized that “Indian child” status of the juvenile can only be decided by the tribe itself; therefore, only a suggestion that the child may be of Indian heritage is enough to invoke the notice requirements of the ICWA. In re Antoinette S., 104 Cal. App. 4th 1401, 1408, 129 Cal.Rptr.2d 15, 21 (2002). Additionally, ICWA provides that even after the completion of custody proceedings, if the provisions of ICWA were violated, “any parent or Indian custodian from whose custody such child was removed, and the Indian child’s tribe may petition any court of competent jurisdiction to invalidate such action.” 25 U.S.C. § 1914 (2012).

In In re A.R., the Respondent-father claimed that he had “a family connection to a registered Native American group” which consequently qualified his children for the protections under ICWA. In re A.R., 227 N.C. App. 518, 523, 742 S.E.2d 629, 633 (2013). . . . Further, this Court held that “[t]hough from the record before us we believe it unlikely that [the juveniles] are subject to the ICWA, we prefer to err on the side of caution by remanding for the trial court to … ensure that the ICWA notification requirements, if any, are addressed … since failure to comply could later invalidate the court’s actions.” Id.

In the case of In re C.P., the respondent-mother made the bare assertion that she and her children could possibly be eligible for membership with a band of Potawatomi Indians. In re C.P., 181 N.C. App. at 702, 641 S.E.2d at 16. The trial court required the ICWA notice to be sent. Id. When the time required under ICWA had passed without response from the tribe, the trial court allowed two continuances before determining ICWA did not apply and resumed the proceedings. Id. at 703, 641 S.E.2d at 16-17.

***

Our Court has required social service agencies to send notice to the claimed tribes rather than risk the trial court’s orders being voided in the future, when claims of Indian heritage arise, even where it may be unlikely the juvenile is an Indian child. See In re A.R., 227 N.C. App. at 524, 742 S.E.2d at 634; In re C.P., 181 N.C. App. at 702, 641 S.E.2d at 16.