SCOTUS Expected to Rule on Native American Adoptions
A lawsuit that has reached the U.S. Supreme Court may change the law surrounding the ability for people to adopt Native American children. In the U.S., upwards of 135,000 children are adopted every year. If you’d like to file for an adoption, our New Jersey adoption attorney can help protect your legal rights and understand what the adoption process entails.
The Indian Child Welfare Act and the Lawsuit Against It
In early November, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Haaland v. Brackeen, which is a series of cases that aim to have the Indian Child Welfare Act overturned. This law was officially enacted in 1978 and was designed to reduce the number of Native children who were being separated from family members. The law also provides tribal nations with a say in any child welfare case that involves a child associated with a federally recognized tribe.
Currently, this law has placement preferences that provide the child’s extended family with priority when it comes to adoption. The child’s tribe and other Native families also have priority over non-Native individuals. This case was brought forth by a white couple living in Texas who had difficulties adopting a child from the Navajo tribe that they were previously fostering.
Along with other foster parents throughout Texas, the couple states that the Indian Child Welfare Act puts them in last place to adopt Native children, which they believe is a form of racial discrimination. Before the Indian Child Welfare Act was enacted, thousands of children ended up being removed from their homes to go to boarding schools in an attempt to make them become more accustomed to white American society. In this situation, these children were unable to maintain their culture and speak the languages that their tribes spoke.
This problem was further exacerbated when the federal government created the Indian Adoption Project, which centered around placing Native children in white homes. Because of the almost immediate erosion of culture and language within the Native communities, Congress made the decision to pass the Indian Child Welfare Act to make sure that Native children were able to keep their connections to their communities.
What Opponents of the Law Say
Opponents of this law are mainly conservative organizations like the Goldwater Institute. They argue that this law imposes standards that make it much more difficult for Native children to get into stable homes with people who will love them.
At the moment, there are a large number of Native children in foster care, which critics of the aforementioned law believe is the result of there not being enough Native homes to place these children in.
While many Native children are placed in foster care, this arrangement is meant to be a temporary one. The primary goal of this process is to eventually have the child reunite with their parent or find a home that best suits them. Keep in mind that the Indian Child Welfare Act contains some exceptions for the permanent placement of Native children.
The proponents of this law state that the guidelines mentioned in the Indian Child Welfare Act are just preferences that still provide non-Native families with the means to adopt Native children. In most cases, the judge overseeing the adoption process has discretion over what the result of the case is. Some of the plaintiffs also state that this law is racist since it gives preference to Native relatives and Native families as opposed to non-Native individuals.
How Tribal Nations Have Responded
Representatives of many tribal nations state that the Indian Child Welfare Act is necessary to protect their future and the future of their government. In the event that the Supreme Court rules that Native American tribes are racial groups as opposed to political entities, the law would be considered unconstitutional. Tribal nations fear that the legal standing for their tribal sovereignty would then be in question.
The plaintiffs have also argued that the U.S. Congress overreached when they created the Indian Child Welfare Act, which tribal nations believe could make it easier for Title 25 of the U.S. Code to be disputed. Title 25 is a portion of the law that centers around Native Indians and tribes.
If you’re thinking about adoptiion, having an experienced attorney by your side should simplify the process and help you navigate any hurdles that arise. Call our New Jersey adoption attorney today at (856) 429-5005 to schedule an appointment at our Haddonfield office.