ICWA (the Indian Child Welfare Act) is a federal law that protects children of members or eligible members of federally recognized Native American tribes. If the child you wish to adopt is a member or eligible to be a member of a tribe, they’ll be protected under ICWA laws.
The attorneys of Bierly & Rabuck are very familiar with the processes and requirements of ICWA, so we can ensure that the adoption of your child with Native heritage is legal on tribal, federal and Pennsylvania-state levels.
If you think ICWA might apply to your adoption, we encourage you to contact us at 814-237-7900 to make sure that your adoption is handled legally. In the meantime, we’ve provided some background information to help you understand ICWA requirements and what they could mean for you.
Understand Why ICWA Exists
Prior to the law’s enactment in 1978, it was common for American Indian children to be removed from their families and tribes to be placed in non-Native foster families. This removed the children from their cultural heritage and devastated Native families whose children were wrongfully removed from their care, as well as the integrity of the tribe’s continued preservation of culture.
The adoption consent and placement processes under ICWA are different than those under state laws to help protect American Indian families and their children.
What Happens If Your Adoption Requires ICWA Clearance
If you’re adopting a child from a prospective birth mother (and/or birth father) who is a registered member or eligible for membership with a federally recognized American Indian tribe, then you may need to secure ICWA approval before you can proceed with the adoption.
If Bierly & Rabuck believes that you’ll need ICWA clearance in your adoption of a child with Native heritage, we’ll make several attempts to contact the tribe.
- If the tribal court fails to respond to the contact attempts, then the adoption will move forward without further need for ICWA clearance.
- If the tribal court waives its right to participate in the adoption proceedings, then the adoption will also move forward.
- If the tribal court says that the birth mother should be the one to decide who the best adoptive family is for her child, it will respect her choices regardless of the adoptive family’s affiliation (or lack thereof) to the tribe.
- If the tribal court feels that it’s in the best interest of the child and the tribe’s continued preservation of family ties and culture to intervene in the adoption, it will rule on where the child should be placed — usually with extended family members of the birth mother.
With most adoptions that are conducted through Bierly & Rabuck, the tribal court will rule in favor of whatever the prospective birth mother wants in the adoption — whether that’s to keep the child within her family or tribe, or to place the child with a non-Native family of her choosing.
If you think your adoption may involve ICWA clearance, you can contact Bierly & Rabuck’s offices to learn more about adopting a child with Native heritage or tribal ties.