Black Hills Knowledge Netowork

A federal judge issued an order for Pennington County officials to comply with ICWA.
A federal judge issued an order for Pennington County officials to comply with ICWA.
December 19, 2016

Judge Orders Compliance with Indian Child Welfare Act

A federal judge has ordered Pennington County officials to comply with the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), reports South Dakota Public Broadcasting. The order follows a 2013 lawsuit filed in Rapid City regarding 48-hour emergency hearings for Native American children removed from the care of their parents or guardians.

U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey Viken issued an order stating that Pennington County officials were still not in compliance with ICWA. Viken’s order states that Native American children must be in immediate physical danger in order to be removed from their parents' custody through an emergency hearing. The order states that Pennington County officials had a broader interpretation of the law which resulted in more instances of Native American children being removed from the custody of their parents and guardians for longer periods of time than required by ICWA. 

In 2015, Judge Viken ruled that Native American parents were denied due process during 48-hour custody hearings as well as the ability to cross examine staff from the South Dakota Department of Social Services, as reported by KOTA News. In August 2016, Judge Viken expressed disappointment that Pennington County officials had not made suggestions for corrections to address shortcomings during 48-hour hearings.

To read more about the Indian Child Welfare Act, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive

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