CARSON CITY — The Nevada Supreme Court decided unanimously today to terminate the parental rights of a mother to her 4-year-old Ely daughter who is part American Indian.
Justices found that the termination of rights did not violate the federal Indian Child Welfare Act and Existing Indian Family Doctrine because neither the father nor the Shoshone Tribe contested the termination.
The Nevada Division of Child and Family Service has not been able to locate the father, who is American Indian, according to the ruling.
Under the law and doctrine, courts must use a beyond-a-reasonable-doubt evidentiary standard before removing an Indian child from its parents.
The girl’s non-Indian mother, Dawn McKay, appealed a district court decision terminating her rights to the child in part on the grounds a judge had not followed the federal Indian law standards.
While the Indian standards might be appropriate when the father contests the termination, the “breakup of a Native American family is not at issue” in this case, the court decided in a 7-0 decision.
State Family Service workers had moved to end McKay’s rights to the child, who was born premature. McKay tested positive for marijuana and methamphetamine at the time of the birth and for the following 18 months, they said.
Case workers said she missed half of her legally permitted visits with the child at the foster parents’ home before her rights were terminated in 2007.
The Supreme Court stated in its decision that substantial evidence supported the termination of her rights. Justices said the child has bonded well to her foster parents, who intend to adopt her, and have agreed to teach her about her Native American heritage.
Contact reporter Ed Vogel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3901.