United States Supreme Court denies review in Indian Child Welfare Act case

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-Indian Child Welfare Act 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 the Indian Child Welfare Act. 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 the Indian Child Welfare Act protects the best interests of Native children and families. The nation’s leading child welfare organizations agree that the Indian Child Welfare Act 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. Indian Child Welfare Act’s necessary safeguards to protect the well-being of Native children and families involved in the state child welfare systems will continue unabridged.”

Protect ICWA Campaign

The Protect ICWA Campaign (the Campaign) was established by four national Native organizations: the National Indian Child Welfare Association, the National Congress of American Indians, the Association on American Indian Affairs, and the Native American Rights Fund. Together, the Campaign works to serve and support Native children, youth, and families through upholding the Indian Child Welfare Act. The Campaign works to inform policy, legal, and communications strategies with the mission to uphold and protect ICWA.

More about the National Indian Child Welfare Association

The National Indian Child Welfare Association works to support the safety, health, and spiritual strength of Native children along the broad continuum of their lives. NICWA promotes building tribal capacity to prevent child abuse and neglect through positive systems change at the state, federal, and tribal level. For more information, visit www.nicwa.org.

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