Human Rights to Culture, Family, and Self-Determination: The Case of Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl
Forthcoming in STEFAN KIRCHNER AND JOAN POLICASTRI, EDS., INDIGENOUS RIGHTS IN INTERNATIONAL LAW.
28 Pages Posted: 28 Feb 2014
Date Written: February 26, 2014
The well-being of indigenous children is a subject of major concern for indigenous peoples and human rights advocates alike. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl that the Indian Child Welfare Act did not prevent the adoption of a Cherokee child by a non-Indian couple. This occurred over the objections of her Cherokee biological father, extended family, and Tribal Nation. After the decision, Baby Girl’s father and the adoptive couple contested the matter in a number of proceedings, none of which considered the child’s best interests as an Indian child. The tribally-appointed attorney for Baby Girl, as well as the National Indian Child Welfare Association and National Congress for American Indians, began examining additional venues for advocacy. Believing that the human rights of Baby Girl, much like those of other similarly situated indigenous children, were being violated in contravention of the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples Rights, and other instruments of international law, they asked us to bring the matter to the attention of the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples Rights (“UNSR”). We prepared a “statement of information” to alert the UNSR of the human rights violations occurring in the case. With the permission of the attorneys and organizations involved, this chapter introduces the Baby Girl case, contextualizes the claims in international human rights law, and then reproduces the statement of information and portions of the UNSR’s subsequent public statement. It concludes with an update on the Baby Girl case and broader discussion about the potential for using international law and legal forums to protect the human rights of indigenous children.
Keywords: Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, human rights, family law, adoption law, indigenous peoples, self-determination, culture
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