Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl (U.S. Supreme Court)
The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA), which was enacted in response to the wholesale removal of Indian children from their families, establishes federal rules to govern the adoption of Indian children. These include the creation of preferences for the placement of Indian children with Indian families. In this case, the child was born to an unmarried non-Indian mother and an Indian father. After the couple separated, the birth mother, without informing the birth father, placed the child for adoption with a non-Indian family. The birth father learned of the adoption while en route to his deployment in Iraq and brought an action under ICWA to gain custody of his daughter. In conjunction with the Yale Supreme Court Clinic, we represented the birth father on the merits before the Supreme Court, which held 5-4 that ICWA is inapplicable when an Indian father abandons the child before birth and has never had custody of the child.