This is a tough case of intergenerational removal. The Nebraska Supreme Court finds that both ICWA and NICWA apply to non-Indian parents of Indian children as defined by the statutes. The Court also found that NICWA’s different language in its active efforts provision, which requires active efforts not just to prevent the break up of the family, but to unite the parent with the Indian child, means the Baby Girl holding does not apply to that provision of state law. However, where NICWA’s language is the same as ICWA’s regarding “continued custody” in the termination of parental rights section, the Baby Girl holding does apply, and there is no need to find the continued custody of the child will result in serious physical or emotional damage, where the parent hasn’t had custody of the child.
While the new federal Regulations, which go into effect next week, are useful for tribes and Native families, state ICWA laws continue to hold the most promise for enforcement of the law in the courts. If your state is contemplating drafting one (either through a tribal-state workgroup, Court Improvement Program, or other mechanism), there are resources and people available to provide research and assistance.