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Name: In re Michael V.
Case #: B268149
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 7
Opinion Date: 09/12/2016

Reversal of the 366.26 findings was necessary where the Department failed to conduct a meaningful inquiry regarding mother’s Indian heritage. At a detention hearing, the Department reported that mother did not claim Indian ancestry. However, mother filled out a form ICWA-020, stating that she had discovered that her mother had Indian ancestry from two tribes. Mother was not raised by her mother and did not know the names of the tribes. The court ordered the Department to investigate mother’s Indian ancestry and provide notice to the tribes. However, it then found that based on the information it had, ICWA did not apply. The Department did not report any further information regarding mother’s Indian ancestry in its jurisdiction and disposition reports. At the 366.26 hearing, the only mention of Indian ancestry in the social worker’s report was that the court had previously found that ICWA did not apply. Following termination of mother’s parental rights, she contended in her appeal that reversal was required as the Department did not adequately investigate the claim of Indian ancestry. The appellate court agreed and reversed. The Department made no affirmative effort to inquire about the minors’ possible Indian ancestry by contacting members of mother’s family. The Department, as well as the court, has an affirmative obligation to make further inquiry regarding the possible Indian status of the child by interviewing the parents, Indian custodian, and extended family members. Remand was required for the Department to conduct a meaningful investigation into mother’s claim of Indian ancestry, including making genuine efforts to locate family members who might have information bearing on the minors’ Indian ancestry. Adequate notice must then be provided to the tribes and/or the BIA. If the court determines that the minors are Indian children, it must conduct a new 366.26 hearing.