That Other Supreme Court Ruling Affecting Families

This week the Supreme Court has made some pretty big decisions. Many are looking at the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the refusal to hear the case against California's Prop 8 as wins for families of all types. But that wasn't the only win for families this week to come out of the Court.

Yesterday a ruling said that if a child with "marginal" Native American heritage is adopted by a non-Native American, the child cannot be taken from the adoptive parents. The 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act allows for Native American children to be placed within the Native American community even as a ward of the tribe, rather than in a non-Native American family. From the perspective of Native Americans, it is to keep children in their culture and preserve their heritage. In reality, many people have used a small fraction of their lineage that is Native American to take back children from happy families.

The majority opinion was written by Justice Alito who said, in part, that using the Indian Child Welfare Act in broad-reaching cases of kids with such a small amount of Native American ancestry would present a "unique disadvantage in finding a permanent and loving family home." In the case presented, the child who was in the middle of the adoption fight was 3/256ths Cherokee, which amounts to roughly a single percent. She was taken from her adoptive family in 2011 at 2 years old.

Horror stories involving parents losing their children to 1978's ICWA are just one of many reasons that so many people adopt from foreign countries despite a strong need for American children to be placed with American parents. This week's ruling will help all families built through domestic adoption sleep a little easier.

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