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Name: In re L.B. (2023) 98 Cal.App.5th 512
Case #: A167363
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 4
Opinion Date: 12/28/2023

The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) section 224.2, subdivision (b) initial inquiry requirements apply when a minor is brought into custody pursuant to a warrant. L.B. was removed pursuant to a protective custody warrant. Mother appealed the termination of her parental rights, raising the failure to comply with the initial inquiry requirements of ICWA. The First Appellate District, Division Four reversed, following the reasoning of In re Delila D. (2023) 93 Cal.App.5th 953, that section 224.2, subdivision (b) is applicable regardless of whether the minor was initially removed pursuant to a warrant. Children removed from homes through a protective custody warrant are no less deserving of investigation into possible Native American heritage.

The Agency erred in failing to inquire beyond the parents about possible Indian ancestry and such error was not harmless applying the standard set forth in In re Benjamin M. (2021) 70 Cal.App.5th 735. Mother indicated on her ICWA-020 form that she might have Indian ancestry. At the detention hearing, both parents denied Indian ancestry. Reports filed by the Agency indicated that they were in contact with numerous extended family members, but had not inquired of any of them about Indian ancestry. Here, the initial inquiry requirement was not satisfied because there was no indication that the Agency asked anyone besides the parents about possible Indian ancestry, despite the availability of multiple extended family members. Following the standard of In re Benjamin M., the error was prejudicial because the relatives had readily obtainable information that was likely to bear meaningfully upon whether the child is an Indian child and thus, a conditional reversal is required.