Native Village of Tununak v. State, Office of Children’s Services decision

The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)  establishes adoptive placement preferences for placing an Indian child with a member of the child’s extended family, with other members of the child’s tribe, or with other Indian families.  A court may deviate from these preferences only upon a showing of good cause. ICWA does not state what standard of proof applies to the good cause determination, nor does it state what factors a court must consider in determining whether there is good cause to deviate from the preferences.  The Superior Court in this case placed an Indian child with a non-Native family.

On appeal, the Alaska Supreme Court overturned a long line of  prior cases, and held that ICWA requires the lower courts to find good cause to deviate from the ICWA placement preferences by “clear and convincing evidence” rather than the lower “preponderance of the evidence standard.”  In reaching this decision, the Court gave substantial deference to the policies underlying  ICWA.    It held that “ICWA implicitly mandates that good cause to deviate from ICWA’s adoptive placement preferences be proved by clear and convincing evidence. To the extent our prior cases hold otherwise, they are overruled.”

A link to the decision is pasted below.

No. 6788 S-14562 Native Village of Tununak v. State, Office of Children’s Services

http://www.courtrecords.alaska.gov/webdocs/opinions/ops/sp-6788.pdf

Please contact Carol Daniel for questions or comments at:

Alaska Federation of Natives 
1577 C Street, Suite 300
Anchorage, AK 99501
907-274-3611

email: afninfo@nativefederation.org