Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl Opinion: A Victory for Children and Families

Media Contact:
Lauren Koch
(703) 216‐4756

June 25, 2013 – Alexandria, VA – On June 25, 2013, The Supreme Court of the United States
released their opinion on Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, argued before the Court April 16, 2013.
National Council For Adoption participated by submitting an amicus brief asking the Court to
act in a way that would allow children’s complete best interests to be reviewed when their case
was impacted by the Indian Child Welfare Act. We believe the Court has done just that by
interpreting the provisions in question in a way that allow the Indian Child Welfare Act to
continue to protect the culture and heritage within a family without harming the larger best
interests of children.

The Court reversed the South Carolina Supreme Court in a 5‐4 decision. The opinion of the
Court delivered by Justice Alito (joined by Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas, and Breyer) addresses 3
key pieces of the Indian Child Welfare Act and decides the following:

1. “25 U.S.C. §1912(f) which bars involuntary termination of a parent’s rights in the
absence of a heightened showing that serious harm to the Indian Child is likely to result
from the parent’s ‘continued custody’ of the child – does not apply when, as here, the
relevant parent never had custody of the child.”

2. “25 U.S.C. §1912(d) which conditions involuntary termination of parental rights with
respect to an Indian child on a showing that remedial efforts have been made to prevent
the ‘breakup of the Indian family’ – is inapplicable when, as here, the parent abandoned
the Indian child before birth and never had custody of the child.”

3. “25 U.S.C. §1915(a), which provides placement preferences for the adoption of Indian
children, does not bar a non‐Indian family like Adoptive Couple from adopting an Indian
child when no other eligible candidates have sought to adopt the child.”

“This is a wonderful victory for children and adoption” said Megan Lindsey, Director of Public
Policy and Education. “The Court chose to prioritize and protect the best interests of children,
preserving culture as a priority, but promising a balanced interpretation that allows a child’s
broader best interests to be considered. We at National Council For Adoption are so grateful to
the Court for hearing and deciding this important case in a way that shows their commitment
to children and families.”

# # #
Passionately committed to the belief that every child deserves to thrive in a nurturing,
permanent family, NCFA’s mission is to meet the diverse needs of children, birthparents,
adopted individuals, adoptive families, and all those touched by adoption through global
advocacy, education, research, legislative action, and collaboration.

More information is available on our website,


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