Bryan McLachlan has experience with the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and the processes required to adopt a child of Native American heritage in accordance with tribal, federal and Florida state laws. He can help you through the ICWA process and teach you more about how ICWA could affect your adoption.
If you’d like more information about what is required to adopt a child who is a member or an eligible member of a federally recognized tribe, you can call (727) 398-0086 with any questions.
Here’s what you’ll need to know if you’re about to enter into an adoption opportunity with a potential birth mother who identifies as American Indian:
Understand Why the ICWA Laws Exist
For decades, Native children were removed from their homes and families and placed with non-tribal foster homes. This had a devastating effect on American Indian families and tribes, and the entire Native culture was being put in jeopardy. ICWA was enacted to “protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families.”
Who ICWA Processes Affect
If a potential birth mother or birth father is a registered member of a federally recognized Native American tribe or is eligible for membership, the adoptive family and birth family will need to comply with ICWA guidelines as explained to you by Bryan McLachlan.
Therefore, if a child is a registered member or eligible member of the tribe, they’re protected under ICWA. This means that a non-Native and/or non-tribal adoptive family may need to communicate to the tribal court through Bryan to get approval for the adoption.
Where a Child Would Be Placed Under ICWA Law
If tribal courts choose to assert authority over the adoption proceedings (they may not) then they favor placement of the child in the following order:
- With an extended family member
- With a family within the tribe
- With a family with some verified Native heritage
- With a family who is non-Native or not a member of the tribe
If the tribal court chooses to intervene, and if the child’s biological extended family is able to adopt them to help preserve family ties and cultural heritage, then they’ll be favored for adoptive placement.
However, if no extended family members are able to adopt the child and no American Indian family or other family within the tribe is able to adopt the child, the tribal courts will approve placement of the child with whomever the birth mother chooses as suitable adoptive parents.
How ICWA Could Affect Your Adoption
If you enter into an adoption opportunity with a potential birth mother who is a registered or eligible member of a federally recognized tribe, you will need to talk with Bryan about how ICWA requirements may pertain to your case. Otherwise, it won’t affect your adoption at all and you won’t have to complete the ICWA process.
If your adoption is subject to ICWA, Bryan will make best efforts to secure a court order that approves the mother’s desire to proceed with the adoption according to her adoption plan, with the adoptive family of her choice. In past Florida ICWA cases, Bryan has been very successful in protecting the birth mother’s right of confidentiality and completing the adoption without tribal involvement.
Contact Bryan now, and he can help you understand the legal requirements of ICWA if you’re adopting a child that is protected under those federal laws.