Child welfare organizations disappointed by decision: U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of adoptive parents in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl

Casey Family Programs, Child Welfare League of America and Children’s Defense Fund expressed disappointment regarding today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision affecting the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) as the guiding law when determining the well-being of an Indian child in a custody dispute.

David Sanders, Casey Family Programs’ executive vice president, said the ruling threatened to undermine principles that represent the gold standard in child welfare.

Child welfare organizations expressed relief that the Supreme Court’s decision did not strike down ICWA in its entirety. However, they view the decision as a step backward for children and families.

“This ruling threatens to undermine the values and practices that have become central to effective child welfare practice, in particular the important role that families and communities play in determining the best interests of children in their care,” said MaryLee Allen, director of child welfare and mental health, Children’s Defense Fund.

Linda Spears, vice president, policy and public affairs, for the Child Welfare League of America, added: “CWLA has made a long-term commitment to ensuring that Indian children, families and tribal communities have what they need to assure that children flourish. With this decision CWLA intends to redouble our efforts so that best practices as outlined in ICWA and our standards of excellence for services to children and families are fully implemented.”

Casey Family Programs, CWLA and CDF were joined by 15 other national child welfare organizations in filing an amicus brief in support of ICWA. The coalition of philanthropic and nonprofit organizations represents decades of frontline experience working to improve the lives of vulnerable children and their families.

Leaders of the coalition acknowledged the emotional toll the case took for all parties involved and promised to continue to work on behalf of vulnerable Indian children and families. With the decision sending the case back to the state court for review, they agreed that it is paramount to keep the best interests of the child in mind and not disrupt her life any further than necessary.

Sanders noted that while the Supreme Court’s decision was disappointing, it did nothing to change the resolve of Casey Family Programs and other organizations involved in child welfare to support improvements to the well-being of American Indian children.

“While this case was a disappointing setback, we are committed to continuing and strengthening our work with tribes, states and the federal governments to ensure that Indian children and families continue to benefit from the best approaches and legal safeguards in child welfare. We can’t allow this decision to turn the clock back on decades of innovative and important improvement in our approach to child welfare.”