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ADOPTION AND THE INDIAN CHILD WELFARE ACT

Posted in Adoption

My colleague, Aaron Weems, blogged in the beginning of May about the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case of Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl.  The Supreme Court issued an opinion in that matter of on June 25, 2013.  At issue in this case was the application of the Indian Child Welfare Act (“ICWA”) to a South Carolina Adoption Case.

PIC

A couple, with the consent of the biological mother, adopted a child.  The biological father was estranged from the biological mother and the child.  Therefore, under South Carolina law, the adoptive parents did not need the consent of the biological father and proceeded with the adoption.  However, the biological father learned of the intended adoption and objected.  The basis for the biological father’s objection was that he was a registered member of a Native American Tribe, qualified for protection under the ICWA and the ICWA barred the adoption.  The South Carolina Supreme Court agreed and placed the child with the biological father.

The Supreme Court of the United States reversed and remanded, interpreting the ICWA narrowly to apply only in situations in which a Native American family’s break-up would be precipitated by the involuntary termination of a parent’s rights.  In the case before the Court, there was no existing familial unit to be broken up by the termination of the biological father’s parental rights, and, therefore, the ICWA was not applicable.