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Name: In re A.M. et al.
Case #: E073805
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 03/05/2020
Summary

Although new ICWA requirements applied by the time of mother’s 366.26 hearing, there was insufficient information to trigger the further inquiry required by the new requirements. In this dependency case, the Agency sent ICWA notices to the BIA in December 2017. At both the 6-month and 12-month review hearings, the juvenile court found that ICWA did not apply. At the 12-month review hearing, the court terminated services and set a section 366.26 hearing. The juvenile court found that sufficient inquiry had been made, the requisite notice had been given, and ICWA did not apply. Mother did not challenge the setting order with a writ petition. During the dependency proceedings, mother did not add any additional information about her ancestry, and the Agency was unable to locate any additional relatives. On appeal from the 366.26 hearing, mother challenged the Agency’s inquiry and noticing efforts. Since the Agency’s noticing to the BIA in 2017, the ICWA statutes had been amended to require a higher standard on the Agency in performing its inquiry. Mother argued that the current ICWA statutes apply because the notice of appeal was filed from the 2019 order terminating parental rights, and the court agreed. However, mother argued that the Agency failed to comply with the ICWA notice requirements because it omitted mother’s grandfather’s name on the notices and failed to send notices to the Blackfeet and Cherokee tribes after mother said she believed she had Blackfoot and Cherokee heritage. The appellate court found that the information did not rise to the level of information indicating that the minors were Indian children. “Family lore” is insufficient to trigger a notice requirement. Mother’s information was sufficient to trigger further inquiry such as interviews with family members. However, mother did not provide the Agency with any information about maternal relatives. ICWA does not require the court or the Agency to “cast about” for investigative leads. The Agency’s inquiry complied with section 224.2. Mother did not demonstrate there was a viable lead which would have triggered a requirement to interview family members. Reversal was not required.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/E073805.PDF