U.S. Supreme Court hears girl’s adoption versus paternity case
The nation’s highest judicial body began hearing the case of a young Native American girl who was put up for adoption by her biological mother without the biological father’s consent. The father eventually was granted child custody by the local courts, but the adoptive parents continue to dispute their rights. This child custody case may have some serious implications in federal and state laws concerning residents of Charleston.
The U.S. Supreme Court is considering both sides and which applicable laws have more weight in the matter. It is noted that the law protecting the rights of aboriginal children and their adoptions are under the care of a federal act, the Indian Child Welfare Act. The act provides some guarantee that the heritage of Native Americans is allowed to continue and is protected from the consequences of adopting and assimilating native children into non-Native American families.
While this act is a noble effort by the government to ensure the continuity of aboriginal communities in the United States, the adoptive parents of the child also have rights that entitle them to custody of the child. They still seek to base their child custody judgment on what they believe are the best interests of the child.
According to the ICWA, children are not to be taken from their Native American families unless there is reasonable doubt that custody by a Native American parent will likely result in serious emotional or physical damage to the child. The adoptive parents in this case will have to find indisputable proof that the father is unfit to perform his paternal duties.
Underlying racial concerns have also been brought up. The ICWA could cause a racial preference that should be voided under its Equal Protection clause. The court tried to resolve the matter by telling the involved people that the act is political, citing that tribes are legally given a status of dependent nations under the protection of the United States.
So far, several states have expressed a desire to have a federally legislated law on adoption involving Native American children. The Supreme Court’s ruling may determine if such a law is possible.
Source: TheAtlantic.com, “When Is an Indian Parent a ‘Parent’?,” Garrett Epps, Apr. 17, 2013