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Name: In re E.W. (2023) 91 Cal.App.5th 314
Case #: A165789; A165933
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 05/08/2023
Summary

The Agency fulfilled its initial inquiry duties under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) when it interviewed two relatives, but neglected to interview other available relatives. The detention report following the minor’s removal noted that Mother claimed Blackfoot and Cherokee ancestry. Father denied Native American ancestry. Mother later reported that her DNA test showed no Native American ancestry. The Agency inquired with a maternal aunt and paternal grandmother, who both denied Native American ancestry. Additional relatives attended the jurisdiction and disposition hearing, but were not questioned about Indian heritage. At the jurisdiction and disposition hearing, the allegations were found true and reunification services were ordered. Parents appealed, arguing that the Agency had not complied with its initial inquiry duties under ICWA. The Court of Appeal affirmed. On its face, section 224.2, subdivision (b) requires that an initial inquiry be made of the relatives put forth by the parents, but making an inquiry of every member of a child’s extended family plus every other person who has an interest in the child, is absurd at best and impossible at worst. Here, following Mother’s initial statement that she had Native American ancestry, she made repeated assertions that the did not have such ancestry. The Agency inquired of a maternal and paternal relative with negative results. This satisfies the Agency’s duty of initial inquiry under section 224.2, subdivision (b) and the juvenile court’s ICWA findings were supported by substantial evidence.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/A165789.PDF