Southwest: Supreme Court Won’t Question Constitutionality of Indian Child Welfare Act

The U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition filed by the Goldwater Institute of Arizona to examine the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

Passed in 1978, ICWA provides guidelines for the placement of Native American children in foster and adoptive homes and created some rights for tribes and families during the legal process.

The case in question is that of S.S. v Colorado River Indian Tribes, wherein the father, an American Indian, moved to terminate the parental rights of the mother of his two teenagers on the grounds that she tried to move them out of state, violating a court order. The precedence of ICWA meant that additional steps had to be taken before the termination of parental rights could be granted.

The questions raised in the suit are whether ICWA applies in a private case between two American Indian parents, and if so, whether it violates the due process and equal protection guarantees of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

On its web page devoted to the case, the Goldwater Institute says ICWA’s rules make it harder to protect Native American kids against abuse or neglect.

“Although the Act was written to protect Native American parents against wrongful acts by state child welfare officials—who in past decades sometimes took kids from families on insufficient grounds—in practice it’s often applied even in private disputes between parents where no government officials are involved,” the site reads.

The Goldwater Institute has long challenged the use of ICWA, which Congress passed to disrupt the institutionalized and disproportionate removal of American Indian children from their families in the 1960s and 70s. Goldwater Institute’s numerous lawsuits challenging ICWA include a recent high profile case about a California foster family who sought to adopt Choctaw girl in their care.

“We are thrilled with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to let stand the Arizona Court of Appeals decision in favor of the Tribes,” said Dennis Patch, chairman of the Colorado River Indian Tribal Council, in a press release issued by the tribe. “This is a good day for Indian Country.”

If you are interested in federal juvenile justice and child welfare policy, read our special issue “Kids on the Hill” absolutely free. Just hit this LINK.

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Christie Renick, Southwest Editor, The Chronicle of Social Change
About Christie Renick, Southwest Editor, The Chronicle of Social Change 119 Articles
Tucson-based southwest editor and vice president of Fostering Media Connections. Reach her at or follow @christiejrenick.


  1. At least the U.S. Supreme Court gets it… It is Genocide to destroy any culture including Native American.

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