In re Alexandria P.

228 Cal. App. 4th 1322 (2014)

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In re Alexandria P.

California Court of Appeal
228 Cal. App. 4th 1322 (2014)

Facts

The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) contained a hierarchy of adoptive-placement preferences. In absence of good cause, preference was given first to placement with a member of the child’s family, then to other members of the tribe, and finally to other Indian families. Alexandria P., a 17-month-old Indian child, was removed from her mother’s custody. Alexandria’s father was a member of an Indian tribe. The tribe agreed for Alexandria to be placed with non-Native foster parents (the foster parents) (defendants) to facilitate reunification with her father because the foster parents lived near him. Alexandria lived with the foster parents for two and a half years before the tribe, the father, and the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) (plaintiff) conceded that reunification efforts had failed. The tribe, the father, and DCFS recommended that Alexandria be placed with non-Native relatives of her biological father, pursuant to the hierarchy. The foster parents argued that there was good cause to deviate from the hierarchy and that it was in Alexandria’s best interests to remain with the foster parents. The trial court interpreted the good-cause exception as requiring the foster parents to show clear and convincing evidence that Alexandria would be emotionally harmed if the trial court adhered to the hierarchy. The trial court found that the foster parents did not meet that standard and placed Alexandria with her relatives, pursuant to the hierarchy. The foster parents appealed. Among other issues on appeal, the foster parents argued that the trial court improperly interpreted ICWA’s good-cause exception as requiring proof that Alexandria would be emotionally harmed if the trial court adhered to the hierarchy.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Kriegler, J.)

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