Child Custody Battle – Indian Child Welfare Act Prevails

Under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) the Choctaw Nation won a legal battle to remove a child born in November 2009, from a California foster family to place that child with her ICWA-compliant relatives in Utah.

According to court documents, the child’s non-Indian biological mother disappeared soon after giving birth, has a history of drug use and lost custody of her six other children.  The child’s father, a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma who is from the Los Angeles area, also has a history of drug use and a criminal record, took sole responsibility for raising the newborn, but he was arrested in 2010 for grand theft auto and selling stolen car parts.  After the child’s biological father was released from jail on December 31, 2011, he embarked on a unsuccessful, 18-month journey to reunite with his child.  His child remained in foster care while he worked to complete a “case plan” which is a series of checklists, forms and services mandated by the court, including parenting classes, drug testing and counseling.  At one point, biological father had unmonitored day visits over weekends yet he never regained custody of his child.

In July 2012, after a year and a half of trying to regain custody of his daughter, only to get more additions to his case plan, biological father became depressed, anxious and frustrated over what he considered the ongoing and unnecessary “stalling” by the State of California, Even though he had cleaned up his act, gotten a job, completed parenting classes and a multitude of other mandated programs, the father began to get angry at the seemingly endless demands place on him by California Children and Family Services.  After reluctantly terminating his reunification plan, the biological father’s only request was that his child be placed with ICWA-compliant relatives in Utah so that he could maintain some kind of relationship with the her, although his parental rights and standing in the case remain intact. The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma intervened to support the biological father’s placement choice.

The foster child was initially scheduled to be removed on Sunday March 20, 2016 however it was the following day – Monday, March 21, 2016, that representatives from Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services removed the child to placed her with her ICWA-compliant relatives in Utah. 

It should be noted that this is not the first child that this foster couple has tried to adopt out of foster care.  Another foster child in their care was eventually reunited with their biological parents – but only after those biological parents fought in court to regain custody of their child.

There are countless foster parents that do admirable work everyday but perhaps these folks are attempting to use foster care as an ad hoc adoption agency?

The ICWA was enacted in 1978. For more information click on National Indian Child Welfare Association


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1 comment

  1. Maxelois Dorsey

    I am impressed by this article that it seems that one of the Native American nation is right on top of taking care of their own. We As Americans should also realize that we should also take care of all children that are in the foster care system. We all need to wake up!🌹

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