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Goldwater Institute scores victory in Indian Child Welfare Act case

By: Timothy Sandefur, The Goldwater Insitute

The Goldwater Institute scored a critical victory for a little girl in danger of being taken from the only family she has ever known. This victory before the Arizona Court of Appeals also boosts the Goldwater Institute’s ongoing federal challenge to the Indian Child Welfare Act.

The little girl known as "A.D.” was born to a mother who used illegal drugs during her pregnancy. The state immediately placed “A.D.” with a loving foster family and eventually terminated the rights of the parents, a necessary step toward adoption. Two years later, her foster family is ready to adopt “A.D.” and give her a permanent home.

But “A.D.” has ties to an Arizona Indian tribe that presumed it knew better than the foster family, state case workers, and the courts. The tribe invoked the federal Indian Child Welfare Act and demanded that “A.D.” be removed from her family so she could be sent somewhere else.

The Act gives sweeping powers to Indian tribes to block adoption of Indian children by families who are not tribal members. Fortunately, in its decision, the Arizona Court of Appeals agreed with the Goldwater Institute that the tribe waited too long to intervene. So this 2-year-old girl will stay with her family.

This case highlights why the Goldwater Institute is litigating a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act. This law creates a separate and unequal legal system for children of Native American ancestry—a system that makes it harder to rescue at-risk kids from abusive homes and to find them the loving, permanent homes they need.

To learn more about our challenge to the Indian Child Welfare Act, please click here.

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