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Name: In re H.G. et al.
Case #: B255712
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 6
Opinion Date: 02/24/2015

Reversal of parental rights termination was required where juvenile court failed to apply heightened requirements of the ICWA prior to termination. From the beginning of dependency proceedings, the Department and the juvenile court believed that ICWA did not apply because the minors were Eskimo and the court erroneously ruled that Eskimos do not qualify as Indians. (See 25 U.S.C. 479.) On appeal from the parental rights termination, new evidence was taken on appeal showing that the minors had been enrolled in the Noorvik Native Community, a federally recognized tribe, and thus were Indian children under the ICWA. The appellate court reversed the order terminating parental rights and remanded with instructions to conduct a new section 366.26 hearing in conformity with ICWA. Before terminating rights to an Indian child, the juvenile court must satisfy ICWA requirements, including making a finding that “active efforts” were made to provide services designed to prevent the breakup of the Indian family. This and other heightened requirements apply regardless of whether the tribe chooses to intervene. Here, having found ICWA inapplicable, the juvenile court did not consider these requirements before terminating parental rights. Therefore, reversal and remand was required.