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San Francisco Family Law Attorney comments on changes to adoption laws regarding Native American children.

San Francisco Family Law Attorney comments on changes to adoption laws regarding Native American children.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently signed into law a bill that changes the way California family law courts handle the adoption process of Native American children.  The law allows the courts to honor tribal adoption traditions, even when they do not necessarily conform to California civil law.

The changes to the adoption process should reduce the number of children in the foster care system and shift some of the social services costs to the tribes, who will be taking on a larger role in the adoption process.

Under California law, parents must relinquish their parental rights before a child can be placed for adoption.  Under the new law, Native American tribes often have adoption procedures that do not require the relinquishment of parental rights, and the practices vary from tribe to tribe.  The new law gives the family law court flexibility to accommodate the local tribal customs when handling adoptions of Native American children.
In the past, Native American children had been sent to boarding schools after their parents relinquished their rights.  The boarding schools were not operated by the various tribes, and consequently many Native American children were separated from their culture, religion and dress as they waited to be adopted.  This law will shorten the adoption process since the sometimes lengthy and acrimonious process of relinquishing parental rights will not have to be used in many cases.

Courts to honor tribal traditions in adoptions, The Valley Chronicle, October 16, 2009
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