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California Welfare and Institutions Code Section 366.24

366.24. (a) (1) For purposes of this section, tribal customary adoption means adoption by and through the tribal custom, traditions, or law of an Indian child s tribe. Termination of parental rights is not required to effect the tribal customary adoption.

(2) For purposes of this section, Indian child also includes a nonminor dependent as described in subdivision (v) of Section 11400, unless the nonminor dependent has elected not to be considered an Indian child pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 224.1.

(b) Whenever an assessment is ordered pursuant to Section 361.5, 366.21, 366.22, 366.25, or 366.26 for Indian children, the assessment shall address the option of tribal customary adoption.

(c) For purposes of Section 366.26, in the case of tribal customary adoptions, all of the following apply:

(1) The child s tribe or the tribe s designee shall conduct a tribal customary adoptive home study prior to final approval of the tribal customary adoptive placement.

(A) If a tribal designee is conducting the home study, the designee shall do so in consultation with the Indian child s tribe. The designee may include a county adoption agency, the State Department of Social Services when it is acting as an adoption agency, or a California-licensed adoption agency. Any tribal designee must be an entity that is authorized to request a search of the Child Abuse Central Index and, if necessary, a check of any other state s child abuse and neglect registry, and must be an entity that is authorized to request a search for state and federal level criminal offender records information through the Department of Justice.

(B) The standard for the evaluation of the prospective adoptive parents home shall be the prevailing social and cultural standard of the child s tribe. The home study shall include an evaluation of the background, safety, and health information of the adoptive home, including the biological, psychological, and social factors of the prospective adoptive parent or parents, and an assessment of the commitment, capability, and suitability of the prospective adoptive parent or parents to meet the child s needs.

(2) In all cases, an in-state check of the Child Abuse Central Index and, if necessary, a check of any other state s child abuse and neglect registry shall be conducted. If the tribe chooses a designee to conduct the home study, the designee shall perform a check of the Child Abuse Central Index pursuant to Section 1522.1 of the Health and Safety Code as it applies to prospective adoptive parents and persons over 18 years of age residing in their household. If the tribe conducts its own home study, the agency that has the placement and care responsibility of the child shall perform the check.

(3) (A) In all cases prior to final approval of the tribal customary adoptive placement, a state and federal criminal background check through the Department of Justice shall be conducted on the prospective tribal customary adoptive parents and on persons over 18 years of age residing in their household.

(B) If the tribe chooses a designee to conduct the home study, the designee shall perform the state and federal criminal background check required pursuant to subparagraph (A) through the Department of Justice prior to final approval of the adoptive placement.

(C) If the tribe conducts its own home study, the public adoption agency that is otherwise authorized to obtain criminal background information for the purpose of adoption shall perform the state and federal criminal background check required pursuant to subparagraph (A) through the Department of Justice prior to final approval of the adoptive placement.

(D) An individual who is the subject of a background check conducted pursuant to this paragraph may be provided by the entity performing the background check with a copy of his or her state or federal level criminal offender record information search response as provided to that entity by the Department of Justice if the entity has denied a criminal background clearance based on this information and the individual makes a written request to the entity for a copy specifying an address to which it is to be sent. The state or federal level criminal offender record information search response shall not be modified or altered from its form or content as provided by the Department of Justice and shall be provided to the address specified by the individual in his or her written request. The entity shall retain a copy of the individual s written request and the response and date provided.

(4) If federal or state law provides that tribes may conduct all required background checks for prospective adoptive parents, the tribally administered background checks shall satisfy the requirements of this section, so long as the standards for the background checks are the same as those applied to all other prospective adoptive parents in the State of California.

(5) Under no circumstances shall final approval be granted for an adoptive placement in any home if the prospective adoptive parent or any adult living in the prospective tribal customary adoptive home has any of the following:

(A) A felony conviction for child abuse or neglect, spousal abuse, crimes against a child, including child pornography, or a crime involving violence, including rape, sexual assault, or homicide, but not including other physical assault and battery. For purposes of this subdivision, crimes involving violence means those violent crimes contained in clause (i) of subparagraph (A) and subparagraph (B), or paragraph (1) of, subdivision (g) of Section 1522 of the Health and Safety Code.

(B) A felony conviction that occurred within the last five years for physical assault, battery, or a drug-related offense.

(6) If the tribe identifies tribal customary adoption as the permanent placement plan for the Indian child, the court may continue the selection and implementation hearing governed by Section 366.26 for a period not to exceed 120 days to permit the tribe to complete the process for tribal customary adoption and file with the court a tribal customary adoption order evidencing that a tribal customary adoption has been completed. The tribe shall file with the court the tribal customary adoption order no less than 20 days prior to the date set by the court for the continued selection and implementation hearing. The department shall file with the court the addendum selection and implementation hearing court report no less than seven days prior to the date set by the court for the continued selection and implementation hearing. The court shall have discretion to grant an additional continuance to the tribe for filing a tribal customary adoption order up to, but not exceeding, 60 days. If the child s tribe does not file the tribal customary adoption order within the designated time period, the court shall make new findings and orders pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 366.26 and this subdivision to determine the best permanent plan for the child.

(7) The child, birth parents, or Indian custodian and the tribal customary adoptive parents and their counsel, if applicable, may present evidence to the tribe regarding the tribal customary adoption and the child s best interest.

(8) Upon the court affording full faith and credit to the tribal customary adoption order and the tribe s approval of the home study, the child shall be eligible for tribal customary adoptive placement. The agency that has placement and care responsibility of the child shall be authorized to make a tribal customary adoptive placement and sign a tribal customary adoptive placement agreement and, thereafter, shall sign the adoption assistance agreement pursuant to subdivision (g) of Section 16120. The prospective adoptive parent or parents desiring to adopt the child may then file the petition for adoption. The agency shall supervise the adoptive placement for a period of six months unless either of the following circumstances exists:

(A) The child to be adopted is a foster child of the prospective adoptive parents whose foster care placement has been supervised by an agency before the signing of the adoptive placement agreement in which case the supervisory period may be shortened by one month for each full month that the child has been in foster care with the family.

(B) The child to be adopted is placed with a relative with whom he or she has an established relationship.

(9) All licensed public adoption agencies shall cooperate with and assist the department in devising a plan that will effectuate the effective and discreet transmission to tribal customary adoptees or prospective tribal customary adoptive parents of pertinent medical information reported to the department or the licensed public adoption agency, upon the request of the person reporting the medical information.

(A) A licensed public adoption agency may not place a child for tribal customary adoption unless a written report on the child s medical background and, if available, the medical background on the child s biological parents, so far as ascertainable, has been submitted to the prospective tribal customary adoptive parents and they have acknowledged in writing the receipt of the report.

(B) The report on the child s background shall contain all known diagnostic information, including current medical reports on the child, psychological evaluations, and scholastic information, as well as all known information regarding the child s developmental history.

(10) The tribal customary adoption order shall include, but not be limited to, a description of (A) the modification of the legal relationship of the birth parents or Indian custodian and the child, including contact, if any, between the child and the birth parents or Indian custodian, responsibilities of the birth parents or Indian custodian, and the rights of inheritance of the child and (B) the child s legal relationship with the tribe. The order shall not include any child support obligation from the birth parents or Indian custodian. There shall be a conclusive presumption that any parental rights or obligations not specified in the tribal customary adoption order shall vest in the tribal customary adoptive parents.

(11) Prior consent to a permanent plan of tribal customary adoption of an Indian child shall not be required of an Indian parent or Indian custodian whose parental relationship to the child will be modified by the tribal customary adoption.

(12) After the prospective adoptive parent or parents desiring to adopt the child have filed the adoption petition, the agency that has placement, care, and responsibility for the child shall submit to the court, a full and final report of the facts of the proposed tribal customary adoption. The requisite elements of the final court report shall be those specified for court reports in the department s regulations governing agency adoptions.

(13) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, after the tribal customary adoption order has been issued and afforded full faith and credit by the state court, supervision of the adoptive placement has been completed, and the state court has issued a final decree of adoption, the tribal customary adoptive parents shall have all of the rights and privileges afforded to, and are subject to all the duties of, any other adoptive parent or parents pursuant to the laws of this state.

(14) Consistent with Section 366.3, after the tribal customary adoption has been afforded full faith and credit and a final adoption decree has been issued, the court shall terminate its jurisdiction over the Indian child.

(15) Nothing in this section is intended to prevent the transfer of those proceedings to a tribal court where transfer is otherwise permitted under applicable law.

(d) The following disclosure provisions shall apply to tribal customary adoptions:

(1) The petition, agreement, order, report to the court from any investigating agency, and any power of attorney filed in a tribal customary adoption proceeding is not open to inspection by any person other than the parties to the proceeding and their attorneys and the department, except upon the written authority of the judge of the juvenile court. A judge may not authorize anyone to inspect the petition, agreement, order, report to the court from any investigating agency, and any power of attorney except in exceptional circumstances and for good cause approaching the necessitous.

(2) Except as otherwise permitted or required by statute, neither the department, county adoption agency, nor any licensed adoption agency shall release information that would identify persons who receive, or have received, tribal customary adoption services. However, employees of the department, county adoption agencies, and licensed adoption agencies shall release to the State Department of Social Services any requested information, including identifying information, for the purpose of recordkeeping and monitoring, evaluation, and regulation of the provision of tribal customary adoption services.

(3) The department, county adoption agency, or licensed adoption agency may, upon written authorization for the release of specified information by the subject of that information, share information regarding a prospective tribal customary adoptive parent or birth parent with other social service agencies, including the department, county adoption agencies, and other licensed adoption agencies, or providers of health care as defined in Section 56.05 of the Civil Code.

(4) Notwithstanding any other law, the department, county adoption agency, or licensed adoption agency may furnish information relating to a tribal customary adoption petition or to a child in the custody of the department or any public adoption agency to the juvenile court, county welfare department, public welfare agency, private welfare agency licensed by the department, provider of foster care services, potential adoptive parents, or provider of health care as defined in Section 56.05 of the Civil Code, if it is believed the child s welfare will be promoted thereby.

(5) The department, county adoption agency, or licensed adoption agency may make tribal customary adoption case records, including identifying information, available for research purposes, provided that the research will not result in the disclosure of the identity of the child or the parties to the tribal customary adoption to anyone other than the entity conducting the research.

(e) This section shall remain operative only to the extent that compliance with its provisions does not conflict with federal law as a condition of receiving funding under Title IV-E or the federal Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. Sec. 670 et seq.).

(f) The Judicial Council shall adopt rules of court and necessary forms required to implement tribal customary adoption as a permanent plan for dependent Indian children. The Judicial Council shall study California s tribal customary adoption provisions and their effects on children, birth parents, adoptive parents, Indian custodians, tribes, and the court, and shall report all of its findings to the Legislature on or before January 1, 2013. The report shall include, but not be limited to, the following:

(1) The number of families served and the number of completed tribal customary adoptions.

(2) The length of time it takes to complete a tribal customary adoption.

(3) The challenges faced by social workers, court, and tribes in completing tribal customary adoptions.

(4) The benefits or detriments to Indian children from a tribal customary adoption.

(Amended by Stats. 2012, Ch. 846, Sec. 21. Effective January 1, 2013. Conditionally inoperative as provided in subd. (e).)

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Last modified: September 9, 2016