Alaska court allows adoption of Native child by non-Native couple

A view of the Native Village of Tununak. Photo from Lower Kuskokwim School District

A non-Native couple can adopt a Native child, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled last month.

The child's biological parents are both Native and the Native Village of Tununak wanted the girl to be placed with her grandmother. But the court said the Native placement preferences in the Indian Child Welfare Act do not apply because no one from her biological family formally tried to adopt her.

To arrive at that conclusion, the Alaska court cited the the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl. In that case, the justices said ICWA did not apply because the Native father in the case did not have custody of his biological daughter and no one in her family "came forward" to adopt her.

"We now hold that because the United States Supreme Court’s decisions on issues of federal law bind state courts’ consideration of federal law issues — including the Indian Child Welfare Act — the decision in Baby Girl applies directly to the adoptive placement case on remand and to this adoption appeal," the Alaska decision stated. "We discern no material factual differences between the Baby Girl case and this case, so we are unable to distinguish the holding in Baby Girl."

Turtle Talk has posted briefs from the case, Native Village of Tununak v. Dep’t of Health & Soc. Services.

Get the Story:
Alaska Supreme Court: Native child can be adopted by non-Native family (The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner 10/2)
U.S. Supreme Court’s ‘Baby Veronica’ decision applied in Alaska case (KTOO 10/2)

Alaska Supreme Court Decision:
Native Village of Tununak v. Dep’t of Health & Soc. Servs (September 12, 2014)

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