Placement Preferences/Active Efforts (ICWA) Case from South Dakota Supreme Court


Footnote 4:

4. We are aware of the recent decision of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas holding parts of ICWA, including its placement preferences, unconstitutional. Brackeen v. Zinke, No. 4:17-cvoo868-0, 2018 WL 4927908 (N.D. Tex. Oct. 4, 2018). However, the decision may be appealed and ICWA has previously been upheld by the United States Supreme Court. Miss. Band of Choctaw Indians v. Holyfield, 490 U.S. 30, 109 S. Ct. 1597, 104 L. Ed. 2d 29 (1989). Moreover, we are not bound by the decision of the District Court in Texas and must presume that ICWA is constitutional. U.S. v. v. Nat’l Dairy Prods. Corp., 372 U.S. 29, 32, 83 S. Ct. 594, 597, 9 L. Ed. 2d 561 (1963) (noting that Acts of Congress have “strong presumptive validity’); State v. Rolfe, 2013 S.D. 2, ¶ 13, 825 N.W.2d 901, 905 (“Statutes are presumed to be constitutional[.]”).

The Father argued the state failed to provide active efforts when the children were not placed within the placement preferences. The Court did not agree with his argument.

Montana Supreme Court ICWA Case on Termination Standards


Appellant M.D. (Father) challenges the Thirteenth Judicial District Court’s decision to terminate his parental rights to his minor child, A.L.D. Father contends that the State of Montana’s Department of Public Health and Human Services (Department) did not provide the active efforts required under 25 U.S.C. § 1912(d) to prevent the breakup of an Indian family; that A.L.D. was placed in a foster home in violation of the placement preferences set forth in 25 U.S.C. § 1915; and that Father’s attorney provided ineffective assistance of counsel. We affirm.

Appellant Brief



Placement Preference Case out of California


It’s not clear from the docket who requested this case be published from Nov. 29, but tribal attorneys should take note of the reasoning in the section regarding the tribal government’s ability to change ICWA’s placement preferences. This is the second time (and state) I’ve heard this reasoning, but the first published opinion. It’s contrary to what I’ve advised in the past, and some tribal practices I’m aware of.

Two ICWA Cases from the Michigan Court of Appeals

Unreported Notice case (parent challenge, no indication child was eligible for tribal citizenship): In re Applewhiate

Reported case: In re JJW_Opinion

The MSU Indian Law Clinic/ICWA Appellate Project co-authored the Tribe’s brief in In re JJW.

Sixth Circuit Decision on Title IV-E Maintenance Payments to Kinship Placements


Not an ICWA/Indian child case, but one that is important nonetheless given its ruling ensuring Title IV-E maintenance payments. The lack of these payments sometimes make kinship care very difficult on relative placements–Title IV-E maintenance payments cover, among other things, the child’s food, clothing, and shelter. 42 U.S.C. 675(4)(A). After determining that the aunt/foster parent established a cause of action, the court held that:

The family argues that the Cabinet approved R.O. [child’s aunt] to be a foster parent. Prior to placement, the Cabinet verified that R.O. met relevant non-safety standards by conducting a home evaluation and a background check. After determining that her home was safe, the family court moved the children from another foster provider to her care. R.O. therefore argues that the Cabinet “approved” her as a foster parent for the children.

Kentucky offers several arguments in response. Kentucky distinguishes between “foster care” and “kinship care.” According to Kentucky, “foster care” refers to licensed foster family homes. “Kinship care,” by contrast, refers to relative caregivers. Although the Cabinet must remit maintenance payments to foster parents, the Cabinet need only pay kinship care providers “[t]o the extent funds are available.” Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 605.120(5) (West 2016). Due to inadequate appropriations, Kentucky ceased funding its kinship care program.

To the extent the Cabinet’s failure to make maintenance payments turns on the distinction between relative and non-relative foster care providers, it plainly violates federal law. In Miller v. Youakim, 440 U.S. 125 (1979), Illinois placed two children with their older sister, Linda Youakim, and her husband. Id. at 130. “The Department investigated the Youakim home and approved it as meeting the licensing standards established for unrelated foster family homes . . . .” Id. Yet, “[d]espite this approval, the State refused to make Foster Care payments on behalf of the children because they were related to Linda Youakim.” Id. The Court reviewed the definition of “foster family home.” Id. at 130–31. After noting that the statute “defines this phrase in sweeping language,” the Court found that “Congress manifestly did not limit the term to encompass only the homes of nonrelated caretakers. Rather, any home that a State approves as meeting its licensing standards falls within the ambit of this definitional provision.” Id. at 135.

UPDATE (2/22/17 10:46AM) Download(PDF) Briefs: Brief of AppellantsBrief of Defendant-Appellee Vickie Yates Brown GlissonReply Brief of D.O., A.O. and R.O.

Cert Opposition Briefs Filed in In re Alexandria P. SCOTUS Petition

Briefs are here.

Case page is here.

This is the case out of the California Court of Appeals (California Supreme Court denied review) that garnered a lot of media attention regarding the change in placement of a Choctaw girl in foster care so she could go live with her relatives.

Cert Petition Filed by Foster Parents in the Alexandria P. Case

Petition here.

Previous coverage and case documents here.

After the California Court of Appeals upheld Alexandria’s placement with her family in Utah, the foster parents appealed to the California Supreme Court. The California Supreme Court decided against review. Though there is no written opinion from that decision, the foster parents can petition the Supreme Court for cert at this point.

The questions presented are:
(1) Whether ICWA applies where the child has not been removed from an Indian family or community.

(2) Whether ICWA’s adoptive placement preferences, 25 U.S.C. § 1915(a), require removal from a foster placement made under 1915(b), for the purpose of triggering the Adoptive placement preferences contained in 1915(a).

(3) Whether the state courts erred in holding that “good cause” to depart from ICWA’s placement preferences must be proved by “clear and convincing evidence”–contrary to the text and structure of the statute and the decision of at least one other state court of last resort–or otherwise erred in their interpretation of “good cause.”

The likelihood of the Court granting this petition is relatively slim. However, the attorney representing the foster parents is the same attorney who represented the birth mother in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl. Indian Country should expect no less of an onslaught of media from this case than what happened in that one. The foster parents in this case have used the exact same media strategy. This article in the October ABA Journal Magazine leaves no doubt. None of this should be a surprise to those following the cases filed in the past year, but Indian Country is going to have to find the support for the type of media strategy Choctaw Nation will need to counter the attacks that will come.

There is an alternative summary of the facts that is rooted in the lower court decisions (and reflects the reality that all of the parties except this couple agreed that this little girl’s current placement with her relatives is in her best interests) here.