Allie Greenleaf Maldonado: My personal ICWA success story

Allie Greenleaf Maldonado. Photo by Lars Jensen / Michigan Association of Treatment Court Professionals

Allie Greenleaf Maldonado, the chief judge of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians in Michigan, explains the importance of following the Indian Child Welfare Act:
I am looking at a picture of a beautiful little boy who is a citizen of the Little River Band of Odawa Indians. He is my son. He became my son because of ICWA.

His 14-year-old biological mother ran away to Nevada where she gave birth. The State of Nevada immediately took custody of the baby and placed him into a non-relative, non-Indian placement. However, the Little River Band was properly notified and the tribe intervened. The good people of Nevada wanted to follow ICWA and so they asked the tribe for an appropriate placement.

If they had not followed ICWA, under Nevada law, the family that brought him home from the hospital would have maintained custody and would have had the first right to adopt him if no family members came forward. They were very nice people, great people, but they had no ties to the Native community whatsoever. My son would have been brought up thousands of miles from his tribe and his culture but for ICWA.

However, because he is Indian, and Nevada followed federal law, he was transported back to Michigan and placed into foster care with my husband and me. I am from a sister tribe and member of the same clan as my son, so the tribe decided we were an appropriate placement. After about two years of trying to reunite him with his birth mother, both birth parents voluntarily gave up their parental rights and we were allowed to adopt him.

Get the Story:
Allie Greenleaf Maldonado: When ICWA is Followed, Children Can Thrive: One Mother's Story (National Indian Child Welfare Association 5/8)

Federal Register Notices:
Regulations for State Courts and Agencies in Indian Child Custody Proceedings (March 30, 2015)
Guidelines for State Courts and Agencies in Indian Child Custody Proceedings (February 25, 2015)

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