On Friday, the Nebraska Supreme Court issued precedent-setting decisions in two cases in which Appleseed was involved. In the first case, In re Interest of Angelica L. and Daniel L., the Nebraska Supreme Court determined that the state acted improperly by terminating the rights of a Guatemalan mother to her two children on the basis that the mother was not unfit and that the best interests of the children were for them to be reunited with their mother. Appleseed provided assistance through our Legal Resource Center to the mother’s trial and appellate counsel and made a brief appearance on behalf of the mother in a post-judgment motion.
In the second case, In re Interest of Elias L., the Nebraska Supreme Court determined that tribes should be allowed to fully participate through their designated representative in child custody cases involving Native American children under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). In doing so, the Supreme Court reversed a trial court’s decision which rejected a motion to intervene filed by the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska on the basis that it was filed by the tribe’s ICWA Specialist (a social worker) rather than an attorney. The Supreme Court determined that the tribe’s interest in preserving its culture and families outweighs the state’s interest in requiring an attorney in such cases. Appleseed, along with a group of 11 tribes and organizations, filed an amicus brief in this case.
Appleseed is proud to have been involved with these cases, both of which address priority child welfare issues for Appleseed: the intersection of immigration and child welfare law and the full enforcement of ICWA in Nebraska. We believe that Nebraska’s child welfare system must fully respect and protect the cultural connections of the children in its care. These are not just ideals. They are legally required – by our Constitution, as well as by state and federal law. These cases serve as important reminders from our state’s highest court that, unless it is proven otherwise, the best interests of children include the preservation of their cultural and familial ties.
Click here to read news articles on both cases.