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Child custody case centers on Native American ancestry

Anyone in Florida who has gone through a custody battle knows just how emotionally tumultuous and challenging that experience can be. Most child custody cases are carried out between two biological parents and center on the care and custody of shared children. There are other types of cases, however, where the players do not fit that mold. An example is found in the recent case of a foster family fighting over the right to raise a little girl who has been in their home for the past four years.

The family took the child in after her parents could no longer care for her because of their drug and criminal histories. They raised the little girl alongside their own three children and sought to adopt her. However, the child's father has a distant genetic link to the Choctaw Indian Tribe, which makes the child a reported 1/64 Choctaw. That is enough to include her within the umbrella of the Indian Child Welfare Act, a law that was put into place in the 1970s to ensure that Native American children were not removed from their homes and placed for adoption with non-Native families.

Because of the ICWA, state authorities and the Choctaw nation have worked for some time to facilitate reunification with the little girl's family. The foster family reportedly knew that the child was not being placed for adoption, but they have fought to keep her for nearly four years. In a recent move, the child was placed in the care of distant relatives on her father's side. Her biological sister is also living in that home, and another sister lives nearby. Having those connections to her birth family was the goal of the state and the Choctaw nation, although the foster family feels strongly that the child should return to their care.

As this case demonstrates, child custody issues can become incredibly complicated when there are issues of Native American ancestry. These cases test the ICWA, a law that many feel is outdated and no longer necessary. For families in Florida and elsewhere who are caught in the middle of such cases, the stress and anguish connected to the potential loss of a child can be overwhelming.

Source: durantdemocrat.com, "Choctaw Nation issues statement on child custody dispute", Maria Moore-Kass, March 24, 2016

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