About seven years ago, Jennifer and Chad Brackeen — a white Texan couple — adopted a Native American boy known as ALM. The couple now wants to adopt the boy’s half sister, YRJ, but the Navajo tribe and the great aunt of YRJ argue that she should not be separated from her tribe in accordance with the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA). On Nov. 9, the Brackeens challenged the ICWA in Brackeen v. Haaland.
“I think that it would be fine for the Native American children to be adopted by people who aren’t Native American,” junior Madelyn Khem said. “But those children wouldn’t be able to be in touch with their culture.”
According to The New York Times, the ICWA states that if it is not possible to place a Native American child with a member of their extended family or with another member of their tribe, then the third option is to place the child with “other Indian families.” During an interview with NPR, Chad Brackeen said that it is “heartbreaking” that YRJ cannot stay in the Brackeens’ home with ALM.
“I think the children should stay with their tribes because that is where their family and culture is,” junior Yuki Chen said. “Unless all parties agree with the adoption of the Native American child.”From an interview by NPR, Matthew McGill, one of the Brackeens’ lawyers, argued that the ICWA “deprives children of an individualized assessment of their own best interests.” But the tribes argue that the interests of Native American children are considered in regard to them having a relationship with relatives and learning about their traditions. The decision of Brackeen v. Haaland is scheduled to be announced in December. If the Brackeens win their case, then one outcome would be YRJ and ALM living together.