Father appealed from the trial court’s order terminating his parental rights because (1) the Department of Social Services removed the child through a protective custody warrant under Welfare and Institutions Code section 340 without complying with the initial inquiry requirements of California law implementing the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), and (2) the department failed to comply with ICWA’s further inquiry requirements after father stated that his great-grandmother was full-blooded Cherokee at the detention hearing.
The first issue (whether ICWA’s initial inquiry requirements apply to section 340 removals) reflects a split within the Courts of Appeal that is under review by the California Supreme Court. After reviewing the language and legislative intent of the relevant statutes, the Court of Appeal held that section 340 removals trigger ICWA’s initial inquiry requirements. The manner in which ICWA deficiency errors should be assessed for harmlessness is likewise under review by the California Supreme Court. The Court of Appeal reviewed the error through the lens of the remedial purpose of ICWA and related California law and concluded it was not harmless.
As to the second issue, the court accepted the department’s concession that father’s statement was sufficient to trigger a duty of further inquiry, which the department failed to satisfy.
The court conditionally reversed the order terminating father’s parental rights and remanded the matter with directions to the department and juvenile court to comply with the requirements of ICWA.