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Name: In re K.P.
Case #: D067797
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 12/04/2015
Summary

Juvenile court was not required to apply ICWA protections where minors had been disenrolled from tribe. Throughout most of their dependency cases, the children were eligible for membership or were enrolled in the Pala Band of Mission Indians. At the original 366.26 hearing, the tribe did not consent to adoption of the children, and the juvenile court entered a plan of guardianship. Several years later, at a second section 366.26 hearing, the court learned that the tribe had disenrolled the minors on the ground that they lacked the necessary blood quantum for membership. The juvenile court terminated parental rights. On appeal, mother argued that the juvenile court erred when it found the minors were not Indian children within the meaning of the ICWA, as the Pala Band’s enrollment ordinance was the subject of a pending appeal in federal court. She also contended that enrollment in a tribe is not required to be considered an Indian child. The appellate court rejected the argument and affirmed. The record shows that enrollment is a prerequisite for membership in the Pala Band under tribal law. The juvenile court properly ruled that the tribe had the sole authority to determine its own membership, and the juvenile court must defer to those determinations. Therefore the juvenile court did not err when it determined that the minors were not Indian children within the meaning of ICWA and terminated parental rights without applying ICWA’s heightened protections. Further, mother’s argument that the juvenile court did not require the tribe to confirm in writing that enrollment is a prerequisite for membership was forfeited for failure to raise it at the 366.26 hearing.