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Name: In re Dominic F.
Case #: B302482
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 8
Opinion Date: 09/30/2020

The duty to provide formal notice to the tribe under ICWA was not triggered when DCFS’s further inquiry did not provide a reason to know that the child was an Indian child. The minors were detained from their parents and placed with DCFS. At the detention hearing, on the ICWA-020 form, mother marked the checkbox which reflected that she may have Indian ancestry. DCFS contacted the maternal grandparents and mother to inquire about possible Indian ancestry. Based on the information they provided, DCFS contacted 21 tribes in New Mexico and nine tribes in New York, as well as the Bureau of Indian Affairs. DCFS received 24 responses, all indicating that the children were not eligible for enrollment. The court found that ICWA did not apply. Mother appealed the court’s jurisdictional and dispositional findings, arguing that DCFS failed to satisfy the formal notice requirements of ICWA. The appellate court affirmed. The juvenile court and DCFS have an affirmative and continuing duty to inquire whether a subject child is an Indian child. (§ 224.2.) This continuing duty has three phases: (1) the initial duty to inquire; (2) the duty of further inquiry; and (3) the duty to provide formal notice to the tribe. If the court has reason to believe that children may be an Indian child, they must further inquire. If further inquiry creates a reason to know that a child may be an Indian child, then formal notice to the tribe is required. Here, mother’s ICWA-020 triggered the second phase, the duty of further inquiry. This obligation is not an absolute duty to ascertain or refute Native American ancestry. (In re Antoinette S. (2002) 104 Cal.App.4th 1401, 1413.) The court found that DCFS made a good faith effort to gather information about ICWA eligibility and there was substantial evidence that it met its duty of further inquiry. DCFS’s investigation did not yield results which pushed their reason to believe the children could be Indian children, to a reason to know that the children were Indian children. Because there was insufficient evidence to believe the children were Indian children, substantial evidence supported the court’s finding that ICWA did not apply.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: