Children, Tribes, and States offers a multi-layered critique of Indian child welfare law. The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) provides the governing law and reflects the prevailing federal policy. Three decades after its enactment, the law remains controversial.
On one hand, Atwood agrees that many state courts still resist ICWA’s jurisdictional provisions because of distrust of tribes and tribal courts. These jurisdictional battles not only deter the courts from addressing the merits of the children’s cases but also prolong the children’s stay in temporary care. On the other hand, she argues that when a state court decides the placement of an Indian child, it must take into account the child’s individual needs. The book explores alternative placements that may conform to the culture of a child’s tribe, such as customary adoption and kinship guardianships. Atwood proposes reforms that aim to protect the children’s well-being while fitting with contemporary understandings of tribal sovereignty and the promotion of cultural identity.
“Atwood’s book is a well-written and concise overview of adoption and custody issues involving American Indian and Alaska Native children, and its footnotes are an excellent starting point for further research. Children, Tribes, and States would be an asset to any library. . . .” Law Library Journal
“Children, Tribes, and States is a thoroughly researched and extremely thoughtful examination of the potentially conflicting roles of states and Indian tribes when it comes to the placement of Indian children. Although the issues involve complicated jusidictional and sovereignty claims, Professor Atwood makes the voice and identity of the child central to the book. The result is a fascinating account of how to promote the interests of Indian children.” Professor Naomi Cahn, John Theodore Fey Research Professor of Law, George Washington University Law School, co-author of Contemporary Family Law
“Resolving Indian child custody disputes is not a science. It's a process. Factors to consider in that process include the best interests of the child, the parents, and the child's tribe, as well as relevant statutes, policies, tribal traditions, and court decisions. Professor Atwood's book reviews all of these potential factors. While I may not agree with some of her conclusions, this book is exceptional, provocative, and thoughtful and it will make the process easier and far more informed.” Stephen L. Pevar, author of The Rights of Indians and Tribes
“Children, Tribes, and States: Adoption Conflicts over American Indian Children is a 'must-read' family law scholars seeking an in-depth discussion of the laws effecting and affecting American Indian children.” Law & Politics Book Review
“...she provides practical examples of how overarching Indian law issues can factor into the day-to-day caseload of family law practitioners—issues that are implicated by something as basic as the identity of the children involved.
At first glance, Indian law issues can appear rather remote, with limited applicability to the numerous family law attorneys who do not specialize in this area. However, Atwood notes a number of factors that have lead to an increased need for understanding of the intersection of tribal, state, and federal law.” The Colorado Lawyer