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Name: Adoption of Hannah S.
Case #: C048581
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 09/08/2006

Prior to the birth of the minor, mother had separated from father due to his violence and resulting incarceration. Mother later filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of father, and the stepfather petitioned for adoption. The petition alleged that the minor had no Indian ancestry. However, an Oregon tribe asserted that the minor was an enrolled member of their federally recognized tribe, and moved to intervene. The court granted the tribe’s motion. Mother then petitioned to terminate father’s rights due to unfitness. The court denied her petition, finding that she had not established active efforts to avoid the breakup of an Indian family. The appellate court reversed. ICWA requires a showing that active efforts have been made to avoid the breakup of the Indian family, and that such efforts have been unsuccessful. However, mother cannot be expected to be responsible for further attempts to alleviate the father’s alcohol abuse and violence or to foster a parental relationship between father and child where father remains incarcerated for a brutal attack on her. The trial court appeared to have relied solely on expert testimony, rather than the evidence before it concerning father’s history, the crimes for which he was incarcerated, mother’s efforts to maintain the minor’s cultural connection to the tribe, etc. Since the court did not apply the proper standard in determining whether active efforts had been made, and did not consider all the evidence, reversal was required.