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Native American adoption law faces new challenge

A new challenge to a 40-year-old federal law puts its future in jeopardy. The law allows relatives or tribe members of a displaced child to determine where they are adopted.

Opponents say the law is racially unjust. Proponents say it helps preserve native culture. Here’s what the law was written to do, and why it’s now being challenged:

Keeping Native American tribes together

Prior to the 1978 law, the U.S displaced a massive number of Native American children. Studies showed that at one point, government agencies removed one-third of Native children from their parents. Of those children, the government placed over 80 percent in non-family homes.

In response to this crisis, the United States passed the Indian Child Welfare Act.

The law made it illegal for a non-Native family to adopt a child. Any non-native adoptee had to get permission from the child's tribe. The goal was to allow tribes to keep their children.

An unconstitutional law?

Critics of the law argue that someone’s DNA shouldn’t influence where they can be housed or who they can call family. In October, a Texas District Judge ruled the Indian Child Welfare Act was racially biased. He claimed it discriminated against non-Native families. By not allowing anyone to adopt a Native American child, he saw it as special treatment.

A Circuit Court of Appeals court has stayed the judge’s ruling. They will begin reviewing the case in early 2019.

The adoption maze

The challenge to this law shows just how tricky it can be to navigate the adoption process. It can change in an instant, and leave would-be parents lost.

It can be an incredibly frustrating experience for Arizona parents to get stuck in adoption limbo. If you’re considering adoption, a knowledgeable family law attorney can help guide you through the process to get it right the first time.

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