Children, Tribes, and States: Adoption and Custody Conflicts Over American Indian Children

By in Child Advocacy on March 25, 2013

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Children, Tribes, and States offers a multi-layered critique of Indian child welfare law. The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) provides the governing law and reflects the prevailing federal policy. Three decades after its enactment, the law remains controversial. On one hand, Atwood agrees that many state courts still resist ICWA’s jurisdictional provisions because of distrust of tribes and tribal courts. These jurisdictional battles not only deter the courts from addressing the merits of the children’s cases but also prolong the children’s stay in temporary care. On the other hand, she argues that when a state court decides the placement of an Indian child, it must take into account the child’s individual needs. The book explores alternative placements that may conform to the culture of a child’s tribe, such as customary adoption and kinship guardianships. Atwood proposes reforms that aim to protect the children’s well-being while fitting with contemporary understandings of tribal sovereignty and the promotion of cultural identity.

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