National American Indian Organizations Praise US Supreme Court Decision Not to Hear ICWA Case

U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. Native News Online photo by Levi Rickert

Published May 31, 2019

PORTLAND, Ore. — The Protect ICWA Campaign—the National Indian Child Welfare Association, the National Congress of American Indians, the Association on American Indian Affairs, and the Native American Rights Fund—applauds the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to deny review in Carter v. Sweeney and protect Native children and families.

Carter v. Sweeney is a case challenging the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), a 40-year-old statute protecting the rights of Native children and families who are in state child welfare systems. The case was filed by the Goldwater Institute, an anti-ICWA libertarian think tank based in Arizona. In 2015, the Institute filed this case as a class action, purporting to represent all off-reservation Native children in Arizona.

The Federal District Court in Arizona, in a detailed order, concluded that none of the plaintiffs were harmed by ICWA.  While the plaintiffs ultimately completed their adoptions without undue restrictions, they appealed to the Ninth Circuit, where a unanimous panel held the case was moot because the adoptions were finalized. In a desperate plea to the Supreme Court, the Institute sought to continue the litigation despite the successful resolution of the adoption cases.

“Congress determined more than 40 years ago that ICWA protects the best interests of Native children and families. The nation’s leading child welfare organizations agree that ICWA constitutes the ‘gold standard’ of child welfare law and practice,” says the Protect ICWA Campaign. “The Goldwater Institute assumes it knows the best interests of Native children, but the Supreme Court’s decision indicates it is not willing to reverse important protections for Native children on shallow arguments. ICWA’s necessary safeguards to protect the well-being of Native children and families involved in the state child welfare systems will continue unabridged.”

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