Cherokee Strengthens Child Custody Laws, Giving Preference to Biological

Cherokee Strengthens Child Custody Laws, Giving Preference to Biological or Tribal Family

The Cherokee Nation Tribal Council passed a resolution January 13 regarding priority placement of Cherokee children in adoptive and foster care cases. Now biological parents deemed fit are given first preference in adoptive and foster care cases involving Cherokee children. A member of the child’s extended family, other members of the Cherokee Nation or other Native American families would receive next priority in the placement of a child.

Cherokee officials say the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) should have protected Dusten Brow's right to raise his daughter Veronica, who was instead placed with a non-Indian family in South Carolina.

“Because of recent cases, there is a need to include a fit parent or biological parent when it comes to placement of Cherokee children,” Tribal Council Speaker Tina Glory-Jordan told the Tahlequah Daily Press. “We’ve come to a day where so many courts don’t want to recognize ICWA. This law will make it easier, the next time our social workers go to court.”

Within the past five years, Cherokee Nation Indian Child Welfare has had court involvement with approximately 1,200 to 1,600 Cherokee children per year. Out of these cases, approximately a third are children needing placement in either an adoptive or foster home.

“Without a doubt our people, especially our youth, are the tribe’s most valuable asset,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “This new Cherokee Nation law will give our tribal sovereign government and our hard-working ICWA staff an additional tool to protect our people and ensure Cherokee children have the opportunity to live in a loving and nurturing home that is culturally appropriate.”

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