Indian Child Adoption Law
In 1978, Congress passed the Indian child welfare act notice provisions, which is designed to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families by establishing minimum standards for removal of Indian children from their families and placement of such children "in foster or adoptive homes which will reflect the unique values of Indian culture, and by providing for assistance to Indian tribes in the operation of child and family service programs." (25 U.S.C. 1902; Mississippi Choctaw Indian Band v. Holyfield (1989) 490 U.S. 30 [109 S. Ct. 1597, 104 L. Ed. 2d 29].)
To effectuate the purposes of the Act, "child custody proceeding[s]" (25 U.S.C. 1903(1)) involving, among other proceedings, the "foster care placement" of an Indian child, are subject to special federal procedures (25 U.S.C. 1903(1)(i)-(iv)).
A foster care placement includes "any action removing an Indian child from its parent . . . for temporary placement in a foster home . . . where the parent . . . cannot have the child returned upon demand, but where parental rights have not been terminated." (25 U.S.C. 1903(1)(i).)
Among the procedural safeguards imposed by the Act is the provision of notice to various parties.
Title 25 United States Code section 1912(a) provides as follows: "In any involuntary proceeding in a State court, where the court knows or has reason to know that an Indian child is involved, the party seeking the foster care placement of, or termination of parental rights to, an Indian child shall notify the parent or Indian custodian and the Indian child's tribe, by registered mail with return receipt requested, of the pending proceedings and of their right of intervention.
If the identity or location of the parent or Indian custodian and the tribe cannot be determined, such notice shall be given to the Secretary in like manner, who shall have fifteen days after receipt to provide the requisite notice to the parent or Indian custodian and the tribe.
No foster care placement or termination of parental rights proceedings shall be held until at least ten days after receipt of notice by the parent or Indian custodian and the tribe or the Secretary: Provided, That the parent or Indian custodian or the tribe shall, upon request, be granted up to twenty additional days to prepare for such proceeding." (Original italics.)
The Act provides for invalidation of a foster care placement proceeding for violation of the notice provision in an action brought by the Indian child, parent, Indian custodian, or the Indian child's tribe. (25 U.S.C. 1914.) the Act also contains various evidentiary and other requirements which may be different from state law and procedure. (25 U.S.C. 1912(d), (f), 1915.)
A major purpose of the Act is to protect ". . . Indian children who are members of or are eligible for membership in an Indian tribe." (25 U.S.C. 1901(3).)
For purposes of the Act, " 'Indian child' means any unmarried person who is under age eighteen and is either (a) a member of an Indian tribe or (b) is eligible for membership in an Indian tribe and is the biological child of a member of an Indian tribe." (25 U.S.C. 1903(4).)