by Timothy Sandefur
February 13, 2019
Every day in America, children are born to parents who are unable to care for them. Many end up homeless or in dangerous circumstances. But others are fortunate enough to find foster families and adoptive parents who are willing to open their homes and their hearts. Two-year-old Albert (not his real name) was one such child. In fact, when his foster parents decided to adopt him, his birth parents agreed. “I would love for him to stay with the foster parents,” his biological father told a Texas judge. They are “the only parents he knows.”
But there was a problem: Albert was of a Native American ancestry. That didn’t bother his foster parents — but it bothered the federal government. In fact, thanks to the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), it meant that tribal governments in Oklahoma and New Mexico could block the adoption from going forward. The law imposes racially discriminatory restrictions that bar states from protecting Indian children from harm, and all but forbids their adoption by adults of other races.
Timothy Sandefur is vice president for litigation at the Goldwater Institute.