The Adoptive Couple v Baby Girl case before the United States Supreme Court is seeking a change in the interpretation of the definition of “parent” under the The Indian Child Welfare Act in a fashion that would vary from state to state, disregard the standards and definitions used by the child’s tribe, and derail the Congressional goal of decreasing the number of Indian children adopted outside the tribal community.
The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978 was enacted to respond to the disruption of American Indian families and tribal communities as tribal children were being coercively or forcibly removed from their families, and communities, and placed in non-Indian homes. ICWA recognizes the vital and unique role of tribes in protecting their children, affirming their exclusive jurisdiction over tribal children on their reservation, as well as their right to intervene in state child custody proceedings in order to effectuate their interest in children that are members of the tribe or eligible for membership as the child of a tribal member. ICWA protects the rights of natural parents and extended families as a response to the egregious violations of parental and extended family rights that had been taking place in state courts and because Congress believed that protecting the relationship between children and their parents, extended family, and tribal community was in the best interests of American Indian children.
The removal of American Indian children from tribal families does harm to the child, who often loses a connection to his or her tribal family, identity, culture, spirituality, and social connection. Removal of American Indian children from their American Indian families often results in an intergenerational loss, as the removed child’s future progeny suffers from the loss of their tribal connection, sometimes in perpetuity. Removal of American Indian children from tribal families does violence to the tribal family and community, negatively affects tribal cohesiveness and culturl legacy, causing irreparable damage to the family and tribe.
ACET joined with numerous Tribes and national tribal organizations (including the National Congress of American Indians, the Association on American Indian Affairs), in the Amicus Brief sent to the United States Supreme Court in defense of Tribal Rights and the protection of American Indian Children.