The Iowa Supreme Court
on Thursday struck down the state's implementation of the Indian Child Welfare Act
The case involves a 20-year-old member of the Tyme Maidu Tribe of the Berry Creek Rancheria, in California. The woman decided to give her baby up for adoption to a non-Indian couple, a move the tribe opposed.
Under state and federal ICWA, the Supreme Court said the tribe's rights must be considered.
The language on this point was clear and positive: "The statute makes the rights of a tribe paramount to the rights of an Indian parent or child even where, as in this case, the parent who is the tribal member has no connection to the reservation and has not been deemed unfit to parent."
However, the court said the Iowa ICWA statute violates the state constitution because it
places too high of a burden on birth parents in voluntary adoption cases. "While providing additional rights to the tribe is the prerogative of the State, those rights may not come at the expense of the parent’s or child’s rights," the court stated.
As a result, the court said voluntary adoption provisions in the federal ICWA related apply to the case.The woman will be able to go through with the adoption over the tribe's opposition so long as a juvenile court finds "good cause" for it, the decision stated.
"'Good cause' is not defined in the statute but the Bureau of Indian Affairs issued nonbinding
guidelines to assist state courts in applying the federal ICWA," the decision said.
The case is In the Interest of N.N.E
. It is the second recent decision from the Iowa Supreme Court to strike down a part of the state's ICWA statute.
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Iowa Supreme Court rules in Indian adoption case
(Radio Iowa 6/13)
Iowa court strikes adoption law
Iowa Supreme Court issues ruling in ICWA case