There are documented cases of Native American children being removed from safe homes because their foster parents aren’t Native American, and being sent or returned to homes where there are known sex-offenders. These children have been physically abused. Some have even been killed.
This happens because the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law enacted in 1978, prioritizes the best interest of the tribe at the expense of the best interest of the child. It subjects Native American children to a different standard under the law than all other American children. That’s not allowed under the U.S. Constitution.
When abused children are removed from their home and placed in foster care or made available for adoption, judges are required to decide where the child will live based on the child’s best interest. Except for Native American children. Under the Indian Child Welfare Act, courts are bound by law to disregard a Native American child’s best interest and place the child in a home with other Native Americans. Even if that home is unsafe.
Protecting the culture and heritage of Native American tribes is important, but the best interests of a tribe should never trump the best interests of a child.
The Indian Child Welfare Act denies Native American children equal protection under the law. To protect these children, the Goldwater Institute has filed a federal class action lawsuit and is seeking to reform both federal and state laws. Native American children deserve the same protections afforded to all other American children: the right to be placed in a safe home based on their best interests.
When children have already endured the trauma of abuse or neglect, it is both immoral and unconstitutional to give them fewer protections under the law based on their race.
We are seeking Equal Protection for Indian Children.