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American Bar Association

ABA Section of Litigation
Children's Rights Litigation

Case Notes


In re Adoption of B.G.J.

--- Kan. ---, --- P.3d --- (April 28, 2006)

The Kansas Supreme Court unanimously affirmed a trial court order finding “good cause” for deviating from the adoptive placement preferences of the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The court first reviewed the standard of review in Idaho, Alaska, Arizona, and California, then adopted a “substantial abuse of discretion” standard of review. The court defined such abuse as “...fail[ing] to properly apply the ICWA factors in making its findings of fact rendering the findings clearly erroneous.” Turning to the facts of the case, the Kansas high court noted the mother’s adamant desire that the child not be placed with either family members or the tribe and that the tribe offered no suitable families as an alternative. In such circumstances, the court concluded that the trial court's analysis accorded with the federal statutes and guidelines, which permitted deviation from placement preferences for good cause. “ICWA factors must be considered, but they are not exhaustive. The best interest of the child remains the paramount consideration, with ICWA preferences an important part of that consideration.”

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