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Name: In re J.L.
Case #: D070826
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 04/05/2017
Summary

Mother’s vague statements about being unsure whether she had Indian ancestry did not trigger Agency’s obligation to investigate, and therefore parental rights were properly terminated absent ICWA notice. At the detention hearing, mother signed a Parental Notification of Indian Status stating she was “not sure” if she or the minors had any Indian heritage. Mother told the court that family members said they might have Indian heritage, but Mother provided no further information. The juvenile court found that ICWA notice was not required based on that information, but told mother that if she received additional information, to pass it on immediately. At the 366.26 hearing, the court noted that ICWA notice was not required because the children were not Indian children, and that reasonable inquiry had been made. On appeal, mother contended that the court erred in terminating her parental rights without requiring the Agency to comply with ICWA notice requirements. The appellate court disagreed and affirmed. Speculative claims of Indian ancestry with no further evidence or ways to investigate the evidence do not put a burden on the Agency or the courts to investigate and provide notice. Because mother’s statement was vague and based on “family lore” the trial court did not have enough reason to believe the children were of Indian ancestry. The court did not violate ICWA requirements or err when it terminated mother’s parental rights.