Attorney General's Office Successful In Court Battle To Keep Navajo Child In Adoptive Home

PHOENIX (Monday, December 10, 2012) -- The Arizona Supreme Court has denied a petition by the Navajo Nation to review a lower court ruling affirming that an almost 3-year-old Navajo child should continue living in his non-tribal adoptive home, Attorney General Tom Horne said today.

The decision means that the child, identified in court only as “Z”, can remain with the only parents he has ever known and will not be forcibly removed to a placement with a tribal relative he had never met.

“This child deserves to live with the family with whom he has bonded,” Horne said. “Since Z’s placement in an adoptive home, he has bonded with his family and the courts have agreed that removing him to a tribal relative’s home is not in his best interest.”

The Navajo Nation intervened in the matter after tribal representatives learned the state had taken custody of the child. Under the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA), Native American children who are put up for adoption are to be placed in a home in which their tribal heritage is maintained unless there is good cause to deviate from that standard. In this case, the state Supreme Court, by declining to review the matter, affirmed an Appeals Court ruling that the deviation from the ICWA was justified based on the specific circumstances of this case.

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Dawn Williams of the Attorney General’s Child and Family Protection Division.

A full copy of the court ruling is attached.