Tribal Child Custody Rights

by Julia Chun

The supreme court will consider the constitutionality of an Act which gives tribes priority in determining the outcome of adoption proceedings. This act also known as the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 ensures safeguards for tribes making it challenging to remove Native American children from their parents. This Act was enacted to protect the children from institutional violence and removal. Family law decisions regarding child custody are primarily based on the children’s best interest. In previous decisions regarding the autonomy of the tribes in family law decisions, judges have respected the cultural importance of maintaining the child’s life within the tribe distinct from the child’s relationship to their parents. Lawyers in Texas, however, stated a brief that the high number of adoptions of Native American children proves neglect within tribes. The judgment based on four appeals regarding this act could cause the removal of hundreds of native American children and have consequences on other native American liberties.

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