Monday, 10 August 2015

International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, Well-Being, Health and the Keystone XL Pipeline

August 9 was the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. The theme for this year’s day was to ensure the well-being and health of the indigenous peoples. This theme comes curiously timed with events  and decisions that determine whether or not the contentious Keystone XL Pipeline will received needed permits to be constructed.

Pipeline proponents are anticipating a final rejection by President Obama, which, according to this news article, might be delivered sometime in August. 

9 days of hearings were held in South Dakota  on the issue of pipe construction through that state.

The pipeline’s planned route through South Dakota would “pass through Lakota treaty territory”   “[R]epresentatives and expert witnessesfor four tribal governments” provided testimony at the recent concluded South Dakota hearings against the construction of the pipeline. 

Monday, 27 July 2015

Saturday, 18 July 2015

The US Adoption Industry, the Indian Child Welfare Act, and Black American Infants Sent in Intercountry Adoption

The news of the multiple legal challenges to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) are beginning to percolate through to the consciousness of news reporting outlets. The reasons behind these attacks on the law are also starting to be queried. This report from  explains that these law suits are a backlash against the proposed binding ICWA regulations, noting that “These proposed regulations have angered opponents of the bill, including the lucrative adoption industry.” In other words, the news story points to those involved in adoption as being opposed to not only the idea of binding ICWA regulations but to the Act itself. The news story goes on to comment that “Since the regulations were proposed, multiple lawsuits have been filed around the country challenging ICWA…”
Just how “lucrative” is the adoption industry in the United States? And why would it care about the adoption of American Indian children? The demise of children available to adopt to the United States through intercountry adoption is well-known. These statisticsfrom the United States Bureau of Consular Affairs, Department of State,  demonstrate the dramatic fall that continues in the number of children received by the United States.  And yet, at the same time, there are children sent from the United States for intercountry adoption—with an estimate, given in this article  that “as many as 500 infants, most of whom are black, leave this country through outgoing adoption every year.”

At the same time the US adoption industry is apparently concerned about restrictions on the adoptions of American Indian children to non-Indians, there is relative silence about the numbers of black children leaving the US in intercountry adoption.  Why a strong reaction to the proposed regulations to ICWA and yet seemingly very little about sending black American children in intercountry adoption? 

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

More on Class Action Law Suit Against the Indian Child Welfare Act

More information on the lawsuit which has been filed by the Goldwater Institute, challenging the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) can be found at the Turtle Talk blog.The Turtle Talk blog comments that: “This is highly funded, highly professional media campaign.” The blog also provides a link to the complaint  filed to initiate the law suit.  

Paragraph 5 of the complaint sets out the aims of the lawsuit: “They seek a declaration by this Court that certain provisions of ICWA, and Guidelines issued by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), both facially and as applied, violate the United States Constitution. They also seek an injunction from this Court against the application of certain provisions of ICWA and the accompanying BIA Guidelines.”

 remarks that “It is disappointing that during this era of unprecedented support for Native children and youth, there are still special interests intent on mobilizing their considerable resources to dismantle critical protections for children that Indian Country and our allies fought so hard to establish.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Backlash Against Indian Child Welfare Act Gains

It would be na├»ve to think that the many gains towards a full and consistent implementation of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) would go without challenge. ICWA has faced hostility from its inception, and some state courts have been reluctant to fully abide by its binding provisions—thus, the creation of the so-called “existing Indian family exception”—a  judicially created exception that is counter to the plain language of ICWA—that allowed state courts to determine whether to apply the Act or not.

And so it is that a class-action law suit has been announced. The Goldwater Institute is filing a lawsuit planning to challenge ICWA as being a “race-based law that discriminates against American Indian and Alaskan Natives” according to  Native Newsline Online.

In a season of many unprecedented and long-overdue gains for ICWA, this backlash should not have been unexpected. 

Keeping Track of the Indian Child Welfare Act

It is by now a well-rehearsed comment on the Indian Child Welfare Act that it is poorly implemented and adhered to by states. This poor implementation and state adherence was at least in part responsible for the issuance of new ICWA Guidelines and a proposed binding rule earlier this year. Each of this is a notable event in its own right. The non-binding Guidelines have not been updated since 1979, and there has never been a binding rule in place for ICWA.

The Children’s Bureau, part of the Administration for Children and Families, announced on April 2, 2015, that it intended to issue a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking that would, for the first time, collect information on ICWA as part of the federal child welfare data. The  intent to publish a supplemental notice  states that:

we have determined that there is authority under the statute (section 479(c) of the Act) to collect ICWA-related data in AFCARS. Specifically, the statute permits broader data collection in order to assess the current state of adoption and foster care programs in general, as well as to develop future national policies concerning those programs.”

This is significant in providing a needed mechanism to provide federal oversight of state performance with respect to ICWA. To date, no further supplemental notice of proposed rule-making has been published—and without that, the details of what would be included on the ICWA data has not been stated. Nevertheless, this information from the Children’s Bureau is a much needed step in the right direction with respect to ensuring compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Children's Bureau Policy Now Recognizes Customary Adoption for Title IV-E Requirements

A great deal of attention has rightfully been focused so far this year on the changes occurring at the federal level on the implementation and interpretation of the Indian Child Welfare Act. There have been new (non-binding) guidelines issues, and for the first time, a proposed binding rule has been put forward. But these are not the only changes happening at the federal level that are note-worthy. Perhaps hidden because of the higher profile of the ICWA-related changes is a very significant change in the policy of the Children's Bureau.

The National Indian Child Welfare Association explains that

"On February 13, 2015, the Children’s Bureau issued a new policy clarifying that tribal use of customary adoption to modify, as oppose to terminate, parental rights will meet Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance requirements. Previously, the Children’s Bureau interpreted Title IV-E requirements to mandate that tribes operating the Title IV-E program must have a tribal code provision that terminates parental rights to be in compliance with Title IV-E. Many of the tribes that operate the Title IV-E program use customary adoptions to honor tribal customs and remove the use of nonIndian practices that resulted in the separation of many AI/AN children from their extended families and tribes"

This is an important recognition, in practice, of American Indian views of adoption, which may differ from that of the typical Western "clean-break" approach that demands the complete legal severance of ties between the child and the parent. The federal policy recognition of the place that customary adoption has in the traditions of some American Indian tribes is a significant step in the acknowledgement and respect for these in the legal arena-- and no doubt will have an impact where it matters the most, in the lives of children and families.

The Children's Bureau policy can on the recognition of customary adoption can be found here at number 3.