April 16, 2013

The United States Supreme Court recently agreed to hear an Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) adoption case involving a South Carolina couple who were ordered to turn over a 27-month-old girl to her biological father, a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. The South Carolina Supreme Court decision which ruled for the father was appealed by the South Carolina couple who said the law did not apply because the child's biological father had relinquished his parental rights in a text message. Lawyers for the father and his tribe said that “extraordinary defects in the adoption process,”including efforts to conceal Veronica’s Indian heritage, were to blame for a case that had been “painful and personally difficult for all of the parties.” The main question the justices have been asked to decide in the case, Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, No. 12-399, is whether the law applies when an unmarried mother who is not an Indian gives up her child for adoption. The only previous ICWA case heard by the Supreme Court since ICWA was enacted in 1978 was Mississippi Choctaw v. Holyfield, 490 U.S. 30 (1989).