The Navajo Nation has its own laws and procedures in place for the adoption of its children. Similar to the adoption laws of the United States, the Navajo Nation adoption laws are in place to ensure an appropriate placement for their children. The Indian Child Welfare Act helps to ensure that these adoption procedures are followed.
Indian Child Welfare Act
The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) is a federal law, giving Native American Indian Nations and Tribes control of adoption of tribal members, potential tribal members and children of tribal members, explains Adoption.com. The law supports the fact that tribes are vested in their children and at times have a greater legal interest in the child's well being than his biological parents. ICWA also acknowledges that adopted tribal children have a right to be aware of their cultural heritage and the opportunity to be involved in their Indian culture. ICWA overrules any state adoption laws and plays a role in voluntary and involuntary parental right termination and placement proceedings, as well as foster care placement.
Consent for Adoption
The Navajo Nation has its own laws on adoption. Parents of a Navajo child are able to give consent for the child's adoption. Both parents, or single parent (when the other parent has passed away), must file written consent for the adoption in the presence of a judge, clerk of court or notary public. Parental consent can be withdrawn any time before the adoption is finalized. Without parental consent, the court allows an adoption proceeding to take place if both parents are deceased or are deemed unfit, or if they have abandoned the child for more than one year. In addition, children over 12 must give their written consent before an adoption placement is made.
While adoption of Navajo Nation children is not limited to Navajo families, Navajo Central explains that the tribe has the right to place the child. Married couples can apply jointly, or singly in a case where one spouse is already the child's parent. Unmarried or legally separated persons age 21 and over are eligible to adopt a Navajo child. In addition, if the child's parents are unmarried, the unmarried father may apply for adoption.
When an adoption petition is filed, the court requests an investigation into the child's history and the suitability of the prospective home. After the investigation report has been filed, the court issues a temporary order, where the child lives with the foster family for six months. The court often waives this requirement when the child is a blood relative of the adoptive parent, or has been living with the family for over a year. After six months, or earlier if the court sees fit, the court will issue a final judgment. With the final judgment, all parental rights are transferred to the adoptive parents and the natural parents are relieved of their duties.