Attorney for the Program and Volunteer Supervisor
Setting: CASA Program Office
CASA Program Attorney: If this child is Native American, or a child of Native American descent, then this is likely an Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) case. If so, the court is responsible to do certain things, paramount among them being to notify the child’s tribe or possible tribe(s) that they have the right to intervene in the case, a right they may assert at any point in a case. If the court fails to comply with ICWA, court orders are voidable, which means orders for permanent placement can be undone—even adoptions. I will be in touch with the DCP&P attorney to be sure they are pursuing notification of the tribe(s) and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).
As the volunteer, your primary duty is to notify your supervisor and me that you may have an ICWA case. You can also help by finding out if this child or her parents are registered members of a federally recognized Indian tribe. If you are able to identify her tribe, you would get in touch with the tribal social worker (if they have one) and/or tribal government. Of course, you should touch base with the DCP&P social worker about this development in the case.
Volunteer Supervisor: One of the main differences in an ICWA case is that the tribe may express preferences that would strongly influence, or even override, an existing placement of the child. The tribe’s parameters for extended-family relationships may include a wider range of relationships than in a non-Indian case. If no extended families are available, they may want Lavender in an approved tribal home or tribal foster home.
Additionally, “best interest” takes on further shading in that the ICWA best interest reflects the underlying premise that it is in the best interest of American Indian children that the role of the tribal community in the each child’s life be protected.
CASA Program Attorney: Native Americans are not a discrete racial group. Rather, they are members of sovereign tribal entities. This distinction helps us to understand that ICWA is politically oriented and not based on race. The Indian Child Welfare Act was passed by the federal government in 1978 as Public Law 95-608.
- What difference does this information make to the case?
- Should Lavender be moved from Bonnie Matthews home to a Native American foster home?
- What are your follow-up questions?