Friday, July 8, 2016

California Appellate Court Rules in ICWA Case

An ICWA case in California, involving a Choctaw child placed with extended family when her non-Indian foster parents wished to adopt her, has generated considerable media attention recently (see here and here and here, for example).  Today, the Court of Appeals for the Second Appellate District of California ruled (again) in the case, In re Alexandria P., affirming the trial court's decision that the child was appropriately placed with her extended family:

For the third time this case comes before us on the issue of whether the lower court has correctly ordered an Indian child, Alexandria P., to be placed with her extended family, Ken R. and Ginger R. in Utah, after concluding that Alexandria’s foster parents, de facto parents, Russell P. and Summer P., failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that there was good cause to depart from the adoptive placement preferences set forth in the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) (25 U.S.C. § 1901 et seq.).1

We have twice remanded the matter because the lower court used an incorrect standard in assessing good cause. The dependency court has now correctly applied the law governing good cause, considering the bond Alexandria has developed over time with the P.s, as well as a number of other factors related to her best interests. Those other factors include Alexandria’s relationship with her extended family and half-siblings; the capacity of her extended family to maintain and develop her sense of self-identity, including her cultural identity and connection to the Choctaw tribal culture; and the P.s’ relative reluctance or resistance to foster Alexandria’s relationship with her extended family or encourage exploration of and exposure to her Choctaw cultural identity.

Because substantial evidence supports the court’s finding that the P.s did not prove by clear and convincing evidence that there was good cause to depart from the ICWA’s placement preferences, we affirm.

The court's first opinion in the case can be found here.

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