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Name: In re M.B.
Case #: E048581
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 03/22/2010

Indian expert’s failure to interview parents was not cause for reversal of parental rights termination order. During a hearing to select a permanent plan for the minors, the juvenile court applied the ICWA, which requires the opinion of an Indian expert that continued custody of the child by the parent or Indian custodian would result in serious damage to the child. The Indian expert concluded that continued custody of the minor would cause serious damage and also that active efforts had been made by the social worker to prevent the breakup of the Indian family. The juvenile court terminated parental rights. On appeal, parents argued that the order terminating parental rights had to be reversed because the investigation conducted by the Indian expert was substantively deficient. The appellate court affirmed the juvenile court’s ruling. The expert reviewed the social worker’s reports, visited the child in his placement, and interviewed the child’s caregiver as well as the social workers. ICWA does not required an Indian expert to interview the parents in every case. It is only required where an interview would be relevant to the issue of whether specific behavior patterns needed to be placed in the context of Indian culture, which was not the case here. Further, the evidence adduced at the section 366.26 hearing, even without the opinion of the Indian expert, supported the court’s finding that continued custody by the parents was likely to result in serious physical or emotional damage to the child.