Supreme Court decision could impact tribal adoption cases
DURANT, Okla. (KTEN) — Since the 2020 McGirt v. Oklahoma decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, tribal foster care cases and resources have dramatically increased. The ruling expanded tribal jurisdiction.
"Prior to that case we had about 12 cases of deprived children, and I think it was slowly getting up close to 20," said Gina South, the Choctaw Nation's juvenile division chief. "Now we have an average case load of about 50 cases."
The Choctaw Nation has created a Multidisciplinary Team to help kids. The team has reviewed 406 cases that South said otherwise wouldn't have received attention. The team is made up of law enforcement, prosecution, mental health, victim advocates, and child advocacy center.
South said the Choctaws are the first Oklahoma tribe to have a team that is accredited by the National Children's Alliance.
"We want these kids to have their cases investigated properly; we want them to be able to have referrals for therapy; we want them to have the medical treatment they need," South said. "We want them to have a full coverage of their case when they go into state custody."
The Nation works with tribal families like Kris and Sherri Brown through the fostering and adoption process. The couple adopted their two daughters with their help.
"The tribe was instrumental in the process from day one, placing them in our home and through the legal process of the adoption," Kris Brown said.
Adelyn and her sister were initially in state custody; the tribes helped initiate the adoption process.
"Ultimately, found the children in state custody and were placed into our home," Kris Brown said.
The Indian Child Welfare Act ensures that tribal children stay with tribal families.
"Native children should first be placed with their families, and then after that they need to be placed with a tribal member family or any native family," South said.
"Being put in a tribal home allowed me to do more stuff, like learning my culture and speaking my language," Adelyn added.
The ICWA is at the center of an upcoming Supreme Court case, Brackeen v. Haaland. If the Supreme Court strikes down the Indian Child Welfare Act, South fears tribal children in foster care will suffer from an identity crisis in the future.
"A lot of children in 20 years will suffer from a massive identity crisis, because we know research shows that when children aren't connected with their identity and they don't have a grasp of their heritage, that it causes an identity crisis in mid-life," she said.
Oral arguments for Brackeen v. Halaand are set for November 9.