Cherokee tribal member, claiming Indian Child Welfare Act violations, loses appeal to regain custody of children

By Takesha Thomas | Jul 28, 2018

County workers failed to enroll children in Cherokee Indian Tribe, the mother alleged in her lawsuit.

Cherokee Nation woman loses appeal to regain parental custody  

SACRAMENTO - A California appeals court has upheld a juvenile court ruling that took away custody of two children whose mother is a member of the Cherokee Nation.

The California Third District Court of Appeal ruled in favor of the juvenile court's decision to terminate the mother's parental rights and allow for the children to be placed for adoption, according to the recent court filing.

In her appeal, the mother had claimed that Sacramento County workers failed to comply with the Indian Child Welfare Act, because it had not enrolled the children as tribe members.

The mother, who is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation Tribe, has had a long history of substance abuse, according to the court documents. 

She already had lost parental rights to her five other children in the state of Oklahoma, when the Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services removed her then 2-year-old and one-month-old children from her custody in 2016, according to court documents. 

The younger child, court records say, had tested positive for amphetamines at birth. 

Additionally, court records show that the mother had, "several criminal convictions for possession of drugs and had been incarcerated in Oklahoma from 2007 to 2010." 

In an appeal to regain custody of the children, the mother claimed that the Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) failed to comply with the notice provisions of the Indian Child Welfare Act, and that there was, "insufficient evidence that mother’s continued custody was likely to result in serious emotional or physical damage to the minors." 

The mother contends that the department, "failed to pursue enrollment of the Indian minors" with the Cherokee Nation. 

The father of the younger child, who according to court records say had substance and mental health issues, also filed an appeal, stating that the department failed to comply with the Indian Child Welfare Act. 

Investigators for the Indian Child Welfare Act and DHHS recommended that the children not be returned to the mother's custody due to continued relapses of substance abuse. 

In 2017, "the juvenile court ordered termination of parental rights with a permanent plan of adoption," court documents say.

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