AFN Asks Walker to Change Position on Adoptions

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The Alaska Federation of Natives, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and a dozen regional Native non-profits are asking Governor Bill Walker to change his position in a case involving the adoption of Alaska Native children. They say the state’s position in the case Tununuk v. the state of Alaska erects barriers between tribal children and tribal homes.

The state has said it’s only arguing for compliance with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Under the terms of the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA, Alaska Native children must be placed for adoption with their relatives or tribal members unless it’s clearly in the child’s interests to do otherwise.

An Alaska Supreme Court ruling last December allowed the non-Native Smith family to adopt “Baby Dawn” even though her Native grandmother wanted to adopt her.

The state successfully argued the grandmother failed to file a required petition to adopt.

Lloyd Miller is a partner in the law firm Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Miller and Munson, which is representing the village of Tununuk. He says the state is misinterpreting the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling.

Miller said that ruling requires formal action, a standard he says the grandmother met when she told the state’s Office of Children Services and testified in court that she wanted to adopt her grandchild.

The village of Tununuk requested a rehearing in the cast. Briefs to the Alaska Supreme Court on that request are due Monday.