Anti-Indian Child Welfare Act lawyer pursues appeal in California

After losing in the court system, a foster family in California and their attorney have waged a public relations campaign against the Indian Child Welfare Act. Photo by Darren Wiebe / Twitter

An attorney who has waged a campaign against the Indian Child Welfare Act is asking the California Supreme Court to hear a dispute involving a Choctaw Nation girl.

The tribe determined it was in the best interests of Alexandria P., 6, to be placed with relatives in Utah. She would have gone there when she was younger but attorney Lori Alvino McGill, who represents the California couple that wants to keep the girl, helped keep her in limbo.

"Her family in Utah have been waiting to receive her for over three years. During that time they have traveled to California monthly and she has visited their home as well," Leslie Starr Heimov, the executive director of the Children's Law Center of California, which represents Alexandria, told CNN.

McGill has been working on the case since an August 2014 decision confirmed that the girl falls under ICWA. That finding has not been overturned.

"The Choctaw Nation desires the best for this Choctaw child," the tribe said in a statement. "The tribe's values of faith, family and culture are what makes our tribal identity so important to us. Therefore we will continue to work to maintain these values and work toward the long-term best interest of this child."

The girl is now with her sibling in Utah and another sibling will soon be living on the same street, Heimov told the Associated Press.

"Court documents elaborate on the longstanding and close relationship her relatives have with her; they explain that she has long known them as 'family from Utah,'" the National Indian Child Welfare Association said in a statement. "These are not strangers. These are family members who she knows well."

"We understand the difficulty of accepting the temporary nature of foster parenting, but it is imperative we focus on supporting a safe transition," NICWA said. "Today, this child is with her sister and other family members who have been waiting five long years to welcome this child into their home."

McGill previously represented the National Council for Adoption and Building Arizona Families in a lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of ICWA. The case was dismissed in December.

McGill also represented the non-Indian biological mother in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, a high-profile ICWA case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices, while they ruled against the biological Indian father, did not question the constitutionality of ICWA.

Get the Story:
Protests, tears as girl in tribal custody battle removed from foster home (CNN 3/23)
Indian Country Statements and Some Law Regarding the California ICWA Case (Turtle Talk 3/23)
California Family Files Appeal to Keep Girl Who is 1/64 Native American (NBC News 3/22)
Custody case of Native American girl appealed to high court (AP 3/22)

California Court of Appeal Decision:
In re Alexandria P., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law (August 15, 2014)

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