Since You Asked...
1. Question: My parental rights were terminated; can I get my child back?
Answer: The answer to this question is generally no, however, there might be extenuating circumstances to be considered. The best answer is to check with an attorney if you think your parental rights were terminated illegally. However, if your child has been adopted and that adoption has been finalized for two years you will not be able to change that adoption status regardless of any extenuating circumstances.
2. Question: We have a child in state custody with blond hair and blue eyes; do we still have to notify the tribe?
Answer: Yes, if that child or the family of that child claim Indian heritage you are responsible under federal law to notify the tribe of the court proceedings. The law states that the party seeking the foster care placement of, or termination of parental rights to, an Indian child shall notify the tribe. This could be the court, attorney, private agency or state agency who is seeking placement action in an Indian child custody proceeding.
According to law, notice must be sent by registered mail with return receipt requested, of the pending proceeding and of the tribe's right to intervene. This method would guarantee compliance with federal law and would not create a situation for appeal due to lack of proper notice.
Cherokee Nation is interested in timely notification so that we can be involved from the beginning of the case. This helps to ensure that all steps are done according to law. Cherokee Nation has accepted notice through fax communication and will continue to do so as long as this assists the court in more timely notice. Our fax number is 918-458-6146. We would suggest you follow-up by sending notice according to established ICWA standards. Our choice to accept faxed information is strictly to assist courts in meeting time constraints and in no way indicates that the federal law should not be followed or that any other tribe would choose to do the same.
The notice must contain:
1. Name and date of birth for the child;
2. Name and date of birth for the natural parents including maiden name of mother;
3. Names and dates of birth for any known direct ancestors such as grandparents and great-grandparents including maiden names of females;
4. A copy of the petition, complaint or other document by which this proceeding was initiated;
5. Names, addresses and telephone numbers of attorneys involved in the action;
6. Name of the judge presiding over the matter and the address of the court where the matter is to be heard:
7. Name, address and telephone number of any state or private social worker involved in the proceeding;
8. Notice of dates and times and location of the scheduled legal proceeding;
9. Statement of the biological parents or Indian custodians, and the Indian tribe to (a) intervene in the proceeding, (b) to petition the court to transfer the proceeding to the tribal court of the Indian child, and (c) to request an additional twenty (20) days from receipt of notice to prepare for the proceeding.
Without this information there will be delays in processing the children to determine eligibility for tribal membership and return notification to the party needing such information to proceed legally. Cherokee Nation receives approximately 700 such requests each month and we average about two to three weeks from the time of receiving your notice until you get a reply. Any missing information from you only delays that process. Please help us help you.
Legal Reference: 25 U.S.C. #sect# 1912 (a) Notice
3. Question: Is there a ceremony for a non-Indian to be adopted into the tribe?
Answer: No. The only way to be a tribal member for Cherokee Nation is to prove your direct heritage to a tribally recognized member. Our registration department can help you with this process. You may contact the registration department with your questions at email@example.com
4. Question: My child is in the custody of the state because he/she broke the law; can Cherokee Nation become involved?
Answer: No. Federal law does not make provision for the tribe to intervene in a criminal action committed on state land, even when committed by a child.
5. Question: I am an attorney and am sending a waiver. Would the tribe sign this waiver and agree to not being involved in the case?
Answer: No. Cherokee Nation will not waive any rights in matters that involve our children.
6. Question: If a child is in the custody of the tribe or the state and has relatives that are both Indian and non-Indian, do the Indian relatives get placement preference?
Answer: No. While placement with family is the first consideration for the child, the family member chosen for placement will be the one best qualified to meet the individual needs of the child regardless of heritage.
7. Question: When an Indian child is in the state system but not Cherokee can the Cherokee Nation intervene and work the case?
Answer: No. The child involved must be a member or eligible for tribal membership with the Cherokee Nation before the law would allow us to become involved. Each tribe is entitled to take care of the children belonging to their individual tribes regardless of the location.
8. Question: Are there ever exceptions made to place a Cherokee child in a non-relative, non-Indian home?
Answer: Only in extreme circumstances will such an exception be made. If the extreme special needs of the child require care that cannot be obtained from an Indian resource, non-relative, non-Indian families might be used. If such a family can meet the special resource needs of the child and the search for Indian placement would cause a delay in placement that would be detrimental to the child this exception could be made.