You read that right. Lexi is 1.5% Choctaw. A 40‐year‐old federal law called the Indian Child Welfare Act requires government officials to take children away from caring foster families and place them with Native American families they may never have even met. Simply because Lexi has a distant Native American ancestor, a Choctaw great‐great‐great‐great grandparent on her father’s side, she was taken from the Pages, who want to adopt her but aren’t Indian. State and tribal authorities sent her from California to live with a couple in Utah instead.
The Goldwater Institute, where we work, has filed a civil‐rights lawsuit, Carter v. Washburn, challenging the unconstitutional discrimination at the heart of the Indian Child Welfare Act. The law makes it harder to protect children with Indian heritage, no matter how slight, from abuse and find them permanent and loving adoptive homes. It’s mind‐boggling that this federal law enshrines rules of “separate but equal” — actually, separate and substandard — for one racial group. But that’s what it does.
Normally, adoption law tries to serve the best interests of the child. But the Indian Child Welfare Act forces courts to disregard that rule and place children, regardless of their individual needs, with members of Native American tribes — even ones who have no connection to the children. Only in rare cases may judges place a child like Lexi with a family that may be white or black or Asian or Hispanic.