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Name: In re I.P.
Case #: E060213
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 06/17/2014

Juvenile court properly terminated mother’s parental rights even though it failed to follow statutory procedures for tribal customary adoption. Following mother’s failure to reunify with her dependent minor son, the juvenile court held a 366.26 hearing. The minor had Indian heritage and was placed with his aunt, a member of the Navajo Nation. The minor was thriving in the home, and his aunt wished to adopt him. Mother was unable to remain sober. An appointed ICWA expert agreed with the Department’s recommendation for adoption. The juvenile court found the minor adoptable and terminated mother’s parental rights. On appeal, mother argued that the trial court had failed to follow the required statutory procedures regarding tribal customary adoptions (TCA). The appellate court rejected the argument and affirmed. TCA is an alternative placement plan which does not require termination of parental rights. However, TCA is only an option where the tribe identifies it as such. Here, it was unclear whether the ICWA expert ever asked the tribe to consider it, but it must be assumed that the tribe knew of this option. Any error would also have been harmless because the ICWA expert concurred with the Department’s recommendation for adoption. Mother failed to show a reasonable probability that the outcome would have been different had the TCA requirements been followed.