Oregon lawmakers have voted to codify provisions of the federal Indian Child Welfare Act into state law in an effort to honor tribal customs and sent the bill to the desk of Democratic Gov. Kate Brown.
The bill would require state judges to recognize tribal customary adoptions, ensuring that Native children who are surrendered to the state or adopted can remain connected to their tribe even though parental rights may have been severed.
On June 7, The House unanimously passed Senate Bill 562 A, which is nearly identical to House Bill 3182, which the House passed unanimously earlier in the legislative session. The Senate version clarifies that the new law would not apply to juvenile case review hearings.
“The preservation of Indian families and communities is a top concern for our tribal communities,” Rep. Tawna Sanchez (D) said in a statement. Sanchez, who is of Shoshone-Bannock, Ute and Carrizo tribal descent, carried the bill on the House floor. Rep. Janelle Bynum (D) co-sponsored the legislation.
“For too many Native children in Oregon, the care that they are currently receiving while in state custody is not culturally appropriate and out of compliance with federal law. I am grateful that we were able to make this fix and preserve the years’ worth of work it took to get this bill right, so we can ensure Native children are getting the support they deserve,” Rep. Sanchez said.
“Adoption or the surrender of children is already an issue that can be traumatic for a child,” said Rep. Bynum. “This legislation will ensure a greater degree of cultural competency during the proceedings, and allows children to remain in a place where their culture is not only recognized, but honored and celebrated.”