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Federal court will hear case on Native American child custody law

Some families in Illinois and across the country are willing to open up their homes to children whose parents are not able to care for them. Many of these families are willing to make these children a permanent addition to their families but are sometimes thwarted in their desire to seek child custody if the children are Native American. The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 works to ensure that such children are adopted by members of their own culture when possible.

That law, however, has come under fire in recent years. Proponents argue that it is an important tool to protect the culture of Native American families. They further state that, despite the law, Native American tribes are still working to overcome generations of family separations. 

Opponents, including plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging that law after seeking to adopt a Native American child, argue that it is based on race, and it unconstitutionally infringes on a state's ability to oversee adoptions. A ruling by a panel of three judges upheld the law in August, with judges explaining that the designation of an "Indian child" is a political one, not racial. However, the court has indicated their willingness to the case again. 

Adoption and child custody cases can be complicated processes even when they do not involve federal laws. Unfortunately, many people in Illinois feel unprepared to address these issues on their own. As such, they typically enlist the guidance of experienced professionals who can help them fight for the best interests of a child throughout the legal process.

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