Notice of Proposed Rulemaking-Regulations for State Courts and Agencies in Indian Child Custody Proceedings-RIN 1076-AF25-Federal Register
(March 20, 2015)
We are writing this letter to commend the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs on the release of their ICWA guidelines in February 2015 We also want to provide comments on the notice of public rulemaking regarding Regulations for state courts and agencies in Indian Child custody proceedings that was published in the federal register on March 20, 2015. These regulations and proposed rules are long overdue and will be instrumental in developing uniformity as to how, why and when ICWA applies in court proceedings across the nation.
We are a grassroots movement that was initially known as “Standing Our Ground for Veronica Brown.” Out of Veronica’s tragedy, came to be “Standing Our Ground for children” because we quickly learned that Veronica’s case was not an exception, it was the reality of what is happening to native children all over the country. ICWA is being manipulated and ignored and heartbroken families were crying out to us for help.
We have several points we would like to discuss and support.
State and Tribes have the ability to help families with financial concerns, social services, education for parents and meeting the needs of children. The new active efforts definition will be critical in getting these services to our families. Also, active efforts being invoked in the determination of an Indian child and the good cause to deviate from placement will ensure the resources to help families stay together are being utilized at their maximum potential. It will also encourage caseworkers to keep children with family placement and maintain the child’s ties to community, tribe and culture.
The new definition of custody is another important piece in that it recognizes our families under tribal law and tribal custom. It’s important to evaluate native children and their families from this lens and the new definition is welcome and appropriate.
We also appreciate that the new rule strikes down the Existing Indian Family exception. An Indian is not an Indian based on blood quantum and the courts should not be using the EIF or the term “identifiably native”. If courts asked “Americans” how much American blood they had or tried to determine how involved in American culture they were, there would be lawsuits from all over the place. Native families as members of sovereign nations should have as much respect.
Under the proposed rule, every party must be asked if they know this is an Indian child. Many people in Veronica’s case knew she was an Indian child and we don’t ever want to see that happen with another Indian child again. We support the threshold question, “is this an Indian child?”
We support the proposed rule’s clarification that the tribes should receive notice in voluntary proceedings. The adoption industry profits $13billion annually and this leads to a lot of unethical practices where children in adoption are concerned. Notice to the tribes will ensure the mother and family has the support and direction necessary to make an informed decision rather than a coerced decision.
The proposed regulations include the ability to protect the inherent rights of the child without the superfluous injection of the rights of the parents, courts, or outside parties. One way to enforce this right is giving the leverage to file malpractice claims against any entity overriding the child’s rights and the ability of an adult adoptee to lay claim to violations against their rights.
Thank you for your diligence and attention to the addition of these regulations. The rights of children to their culture, tribal community, families, and safety must be reinforced.
Standing Our Ground for Children