This case arose from "an unfortunate situation" of child-on-child abuse within the foster care system. Plaintiffs J.W. and M.R.W. are a foster couple, and their now-adopted foster children were injured after an abusive foster child was placed in their home in 2002. Plaintiffs raised several state and federal claims against Utah and the state employees involved in placing the abusive child in their home. The district court dismissed several of Plaintiffs' negligence claims based on Utah's Governmental Immunity Act. As for Plaintiffs' Fourteenth Amendment claim, the court held that the caseworker and her supervisor were entitled to qualified immunity because Plaintiffs had not shown a failure to exercise professional judgment on the part of the caseworker, nor had they shown any basis for holding the supervisor liable under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Plaintiffs challenged these decisions on appeal. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit concluded that the undisputed evidence in the record reflected that there was an impermissible deviation from professional judgment on the part of the state employees. Furthermore, the Court found Plaintiffs did not set forth a valid basis for holding the employees liable under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Court affirmed the lower court's decisions. View "J.W. v. Utah" on Justia Law
One day after giving birth, the 17-year-old mother appeared in Utah state court to relinquish parental rights and consent to adoption. Although the mother's mother is a registered member of the Cherokee Nation, the court determined that the mother was not a member and that the baby was not subject to the 10-day wait for consent to adoption under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), 25 U.S.C. 1901. The federal district court held that the baby was a member of the tribe and that the Act applied, but did not vacate the adoption. The Tenth Circuit reversed. While the Cherokee Nation Citizenship Act provides that "every newborn child who is a Direct Descendant of an Original Enrollee shall be automatically admitted as a citizen of the Cherokee Nation" for 240 days after birth and there was evidence that the baby is a direct descendant, the Citizenship Act does not govern application of ICWA. ICWA defines an Indian child as having a parent who is a tribe member.