Here. Judge Allie Maldonado, Judge Tim Connors, and our own Kate Fort are interviewed. [Everyone's name is spelled wrong, but there's no spelling on radio....]
The state law is called the Michigan Indian Family Preservation Act. People in the know shorten it to MIFPA.
As State Court Judge Tim Connors sees it, the law could be a model for the whole state. He get’s really passionate about the law, going so far as to call it “salvation” and “a tremendous gift.” Connors sees MIFPA’s approach as an alternative to breaking apart families when the state takes children away from their parents. Connors is not afraid to say what he thinks about that approach. “The truth of the matter is that what we do in our state courts and (sic) family courts is very destructive to families, to individuals, to children,” he says.
The tribes want families kept out of this system. Their history and a ton of statistics tell them it takes kids a long time to get out, and it can be pretty damaging.
Tribes would rather parents get the help they need to be better parents and keep a family together.
Of course that isn’t always possible. Abusive and neglectful parents should not get to keep their kids under MIFPA or any other law.
But for many other families who have problems, MIFPA says the state needs to work a little harder to connect Indian families to the resources that can make a difference for them and their children. It’s called an “active efforts” requirement. Judge Connors explains it to himself as “following through” and “walking the talk.” Connors also says he thinks the active efforts requirement should be the law for all kids in the state.
Judge Connors highlights something that always gets lost in discussions about the Indian Child Welfare Act — ICWA and MIFPA really are best practices statutes, and when someone asks why Indians should get a “special” statute, the answer is that every child should have these legal rights.