UN rights expert concerned over American Indian adoption case

[JURIST] The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples James Anaya [official website] on Tuesday called on [press release] state, federal and tribal authorities in the US to ensure the well being and human rights of "Veronica," the child in the Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] case that reached the US Supreme Court [official website]. Anaya urged that "[t]he individual and collective rights of all indigenous children, their families and indigenous peoples must be protected throughout the United States." Following the Supreme Court's decision, a South Carolina state court awarded custody of Veronica to the adoptive couple but failed to determine if that was in Veronica's best interest in light of Veronica spending nearly two years with her father and indigenous family. South Carolina authorities have attempted to force Veronica's father to release custody of Veronica, but, on September 3, the Oklahoma Supreme Court granted a temporary stay of the order pending further proceedings. Anaya stated that Veronica's rights are guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [text] and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples [text, PDF].

In June the US Supreme Court ruled [opinion, PDF] 5-4 in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl [JURIST report] that §1912(f) and §1912(d) of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) [Cornell LII backgrounder] do not bar the termination of the biological father's parental rights. In the case, a woman put her baby, who was fathered by an American Indian, up for adoption. A South Carolina couple attempted to adopt the child, but once the biological father was notified about the adoption proceedings, he attempted to gain custody. The South Carolina Supreme Court initially ruled for the biological father, stating that the federal ICWA, which seeks to keep American Indian children in their ethnic communities, preempts South Carolina law, but the Supreme Court reversed that decision. JURIST Guest Columnist Megan Lindsey, counsel for the National Council for Adoption, argues that the Supreme Court reached the right decision [JURIST op-ed] in its ruling.

 

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