Technically, the proposed legislation, AB 686, would let lawyers or other representatives of Native American tribes appear by phone or electronically in cases involving the possible removal of Native American children from their families and tribes.Such hearings are held as part of the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law enacted in 1978 to stem the systemic removal of tribal children from their families and cultures — a practice that at one time touched as many as one in three Native American children. But the problem AB 686 aims to fix is as much about geography as culture.
Often, the hearings that determine where Indian children are placed are held hundreds of miles from tribal lands, making it difficult for all sides to be well represented in court. And without tribal presence during those proceedings, judges are denied information that might make their decision more compliant with the federal law, according to a statement from the Juvenile Court Judges of California to the Judiciary Committee, which passed the bill April 2.
GREAT NEWS: Proposed California law would make it easier for Native Americans to argue their side in child custody cases