SCOTUS Upholds Indian Child Welfare Act

Tribes receive preference in the adoption of Native American children.

The Supreme Court has ruled to uphold the Indian Child Welfare Act, deciding that Native American children up for adoption should generally be placed with their tribes. Congress passed the act in 1978 in response to findings that over one-third of Native American children had been separated from their families, sometimes forcibly, through the American foster care system.  

Justice Amy Coney Barrett, writing for the majority, said, “Congress’s power to legislate with respect to Indians is well established and broad. Consistent with that breadth, we have not doubted Congress’s ability to legislate across a wide range of areas, including criminal law, domestic violence, employment, property, tax, and trade.”

The justices did not rule on whether the Indian Child Welfare Act violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote, “In my view, the equal protection issue is serious,” commenting that the race of prospective parents and children could be used to reject a foster placement or adoption, “even if the placement is otherwise determined to be in the child’s best interests.” 

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland commended the court’s upholding the rights of Tribal nations, stating, “For nearly two centuries, federal policies promoted the forced removal of Indian children from their families and communities through boarding schools, foster care, and adoption.” She continued that the court’s “decision is a welcome affirmation across Indian Country of what presidents and congressional majorities on both sides of the aisle have recognized for the past four decades.” 

As the Lord Leads, Pray with Us…

  • For wisdom for Chief Justice Roberts as he presides over the Supreme Court.
  • For the justices of the Supreme Court as they decide the remaining cases of the current term.
  • For the Native American children who await foster or adoptive homes.

Sources: Washington Times, NPR, AP, NY Times , Department of the Interior


Back to top