This and other comprehensive state ICWA laws are kept here.
If your state doesn’t have a comprehensive state ICWA law, you should get one. For a lot of different reasons, they are vital to maintaining ICWA’s protections for Native families.
Since April, the California courts of appeal have been wrestling with California’s new law defining “reason to know” from ICWA’s section 1912 and “reason to believe” (state law standard). In addition, the department has been regularly petitioning to make cases reported rather than unreported. Since April with the In re Austin J. case, California courts have been reshaping their very low bar for notice to tribes into a much higher one, with the caveat that the California standard of “reason to believe” does require contact with tribes though not necessarily formal notice. Given California’s outsized role in notice and inquiry ICWA cases, this is a trend that bears watching, with the understanding this is based on California state law, and not the federal ICWA.
Here is In re M.W., decided on May 11. The Department petitioned for publication on May 15 and it was published on June 5. Under the reason to believe standard, the social worker,
The report documented the social worker’s contact with the 12 tribes by telephone, fax, e-mail, and/or mail, the name of the designated agent for each tribe, the dates of attempted contact with each designated agent (all between May 15 and June 4, 2019), and that each tribe was provided with the minor’s “ICWA Family Tree.” As of the date of the report, four of the tribes had confirmed the minor was not an Indian child. As of the July 10, 2019 hearing, six additional tribes had confirmed the minor was not an Indian child, and the two remaining tribes (the Navajo Nation and the White Mountain Apache Tribe) had acknowledged contact but had not yet provided a definitive response.
I am curious to know how out of state tribes are feeling this system is working, given that while California may change its ways, tribes are generally set up to receive the paperwork to confirm a family’s tribal membership, and we already know that informal phone calls to confirm or deny a child’s eligibility can be problematic. Early outreach is great, if it works to give tribes MORE information and not less.
This is a tough case of intergenerational removal. The Nebraska Supreme Court finds that both ICWA and NICWA apply to non-Indian parents of Indian children as defined by the statutes. The Court also found that NICWA’s different language in its active efforts provision, which requires active efforts not just to prevent the break up of the family, but to unite the parent with the Indian child, means the Baby Girl holding does not apply to that provision of state law. However, where NICWA’s language is the same as ICWA’s regarding “continued custody” in the termination of parental rights section, the Baby Girl holding does apply, and there is no need to find the continued custody of the child will result in serious physical or emotional damage, where the parent hasn’t had custody of the child.
While the new federal Regulations, which go into effect next week, are useful for tribes and Native families, state ICWA laws continue to hold the most promise for enforcement of the law in the courts. If your state is contemplating drafting one (either through a tribal-state workgroup, Court Improvement Program, or other mechanism), there are resources and people available to provide research and assistance.
The Court found the active efforts provision applied to the termination of father’s parental rights in a step-parent adoption, despite the father being non-Indian. In addition, the court found active efforts applied despite Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, not only because the facts were different, but also because of the Washington state ICWA statute.