Substantial evidence supported the juvenile court’s finding that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) did not apply. The minor was removed from parents and placed with paternal grandfather. Neither parent reported Indian ancestry and ICWA was found not to apply. In preparation of the section 366.26 hearing, the juvenile court ordered the Agency to conduct further ICWA inquiry. The Agency inquired with Father, paternal grandparents, Mother, maternal grandmother and maternal great-uncle and all denied Indian heritage. The parents did not identify or provide contact information for additional relatives who might have information about ICWA. The juvenile court found ICWA did not apply, then terminated parental rights. Father appealed and the Court of Appeal affirmed. The extended family member inquiry mandated by section 224.2, subdivision (b) is limited. Where a parent fails to provide names and contact information for additional family members, the Agency’s ability to conduct an exhaustive ICWA inquiry is necessarily constrained. Requiring the Agency to track down information about extended family members, beyond that offered by participants in the proceedings, would impose an undue burden on the Agency and necessarily reduce the resources it has to otherwise protect the welfare of dependent children. Here, the Agency inquired about Indian ancestry with representatives from both sides of two generational levels of the minor’s family. This was sufficient information to support the finding that ICWA did not apply. Further, the Agency’s failure to inquire with a step-grandmother and step-sibling was not error because these relatives are not considered extended family members within the definition contained in section 224.2.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B322472.PDF