Indian Child Welfare


General Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What is the voluntary relinquishment process for the parents of an Indian child?

  1. Any consent given prior to, or within ten days after, the birth of an Indian child shall not be valid. Therefore, relinquishment cannot take place until the child is at least eleven days old.
  2. The relinquishment must be executed in writing and take place in front of a judge of competent jurisdiction and accompanied by the presiding judge's certificate that the terms and consequences of the consent were fully explained in detail and were fully understood by the parents.
  3. The judge must certify that the parents fully understood the English language or that it was interpreted into a language that the parents understood.

Legal Reference: 25 U.S.C. #sect# 1913 (a)

What happens if the Indian parents change their minds after the relinquishment papers have been correctly executed?

The Indian parents may change their minds at any time, for any reason and the child must be returned to them until the final decree of adoption has been executed by the judge and filed in the court.

Indian parents may still change their minds and have the child returned to them after the final decree is filed if they are able to prove that the signing of the relinquishment papers was done under some type of fraud or duress.

Legal Reference: 25 U.S.C. #sect# 1913 (c) & (d)

Am I required to send notice to the tribe in voluntary relinquishment situations?

Yes. The intent of the 1978 Act is to give the tribe control over the disposition of their children. The law clearly states the federal Indian Child Welfare Act pertains to "Indian child custody proceedings" and the definitions under the act refer to "adoption proceedings" as one of the proceedings included. The purpose of a voluntary relinquishment is to promulgate an adoption proceeding. The act is very specific about "notice" requirements in adoption proceedings.

Legal Reference: 25 U.S.C. #sect# 1903 (1) (iii) & 25 U.S.C. #sect# 1912 (a)

Oklahoma Indian Child Welfare Act: 10 #sect# 40.4

Can the tribe intervene in private adoption matters?

Yes. The law clearly states that the tribe has the right to intervene in all Indian child custody proceedings at any point in the proceeding.

Legal Reference: 25 U.S.C. #sect# 1911 (c)

What are the rights of extended family in voluntary relinquishments?

The placement preferences of the Act place family at the top of the list. It is the right of the extended family under the federal Indian Child Welfare Act to be the first consideration for placement. The fact that a relinquishment of parental rights is voluntary does not negate the rights of the first placement preference.

Legal Reference: 25 U.S.C. #sect# 1915 (a)

When is an Indian child adoption free from appeal?

If an adoption of an Indian child has been finalized for at least two years, it cannot be overturned.

Legal Reference: 25 U.S.C. #sect# 1913 (d)

Who is eligible to adopt an Indian child?

You will be eligible to adopt a Cherokee child if you are a relative from either side of the family, regardless of Indian heritage, and can provide a safe and stable home for the child. You will also be eligible to adopt a Cherokee child if at least one of the parents can provide proof of tribal citizenship with a federally recognized tribe and both can meet all the certification standards of the Cherokee Nation adoption program or other accredited adoption agency.