This decision involves a review of a juvenile court’s application of ICWA’s protections to a termination of parental rights proceeding. After the juvenile court entered an order terminating the parent-child legal relationship, a division of the Court of Appeals remanded the case to ensure appropriate notice to two tribes. On remand, a tribe responded to the additional notice by sending a letter indicating that the children were eligible for membership. Based on this letter, the juvenile court determined that ICWA’s protections were triggered. However, the record was silent on whether either parent is a member of the tribe.
In its decision, the Court of Appeals considers ICWA’s definition of an Indian Child – an unmarried person under the age of 18 who is either (a) a member of an Indian tribe or (b) eligible for membership in a tribe and the biological child of a tribal member. The Court of Appeals reasons that because the tribe’s response did not indicate whether either parent is a tribal member, the record did not contain sufficient information about whether the children were Indian Children at the time the court entered the order terminating parental rights. The Court of Appeals remands for findings as to whether either parent is a tribal member and, if so, whether that parent became eligible for membership before the juvenile court entered the order terminating the parent-child legal relationship.Click here to access the case in Westlaw.