NASW files amicus brief in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl

NASW, through its Legal Defense Fund, filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court case, Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl.

The case involves whether the Indian Child Welfare Act applies to a private adoption initiated by a non-Indian parent.

Previously, the South Carolina Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling that a Native American child could be not be adopted by non-Native American parents without complying with the ICWA, which provides biological parents with greater procedural rights to notice and consent than many state adoption proceedings.

In 2009, a couple from South Carolina sought to adopt a Native American child from her non-Native American single mother in Oklahoma. The biological father contested the adoption on the grounds that he was not properly notified in accordance with the ICWA, and won his case in trial court and on appeal to the state supreme court.

The court ruled that the child be returned to her biological father after she had lived with her adoptive parents from birth to age 2, based in part on the fact that the father had filed his initial challenge as soon as he learned of the adoption which was four months after the placement.

In the brief, filed with national child welfare organzations, NASW urges the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the decision by the South Carolina Supreme Court.

The brief states, “Consistent with child welfare best practices, Congress sought in  (the) ICWA to increase the likelihood that parent-child and familial relationships would be preserved by requiring that ‘active efforts’ to support and develop a child’s relationship with her birth parents be made before that relationship is permanently ended.”

The brief notes that the child welfare standards embodied in the ICWA “enforce the best child welfare practices of transparency, stability, and supporting, developing, maintaining, and preserving the relationships between children and their loving and fit birth parents . . .”

For this and other LDF cases: www.socialworkers.org/ldf/brief_bank

From the May 2013 NASW News.

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