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Thu July 16, 2009
Supreme Court upholds breaking up Indian family
By Rick Pluta, Michigan Public Radio Network
LANSING, MI – The Michigan Supreme Court says state welfare workers followed the rules when they removed an American Indian child from her mother's home, and asked a court to terminate her parental rights.
AUDIO: The issue here is whether state Department of Human Services employees complied with a court rule. It says the state has to make a special effort to avoid breaking up American Indian families. The mother is a member of the Sault Sainte Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.
Five justices of the Supreme Court said there was clear and convincing evidence that removing the boy was necessary to rescue from further emotional or physical harm. The mother had already had already lost custody of her other children. And the majority said the fact that she was convicted of drunk driving showed substance abuse counseling was not helping her.
Two justices dissented. Justices Michael Cavanagh and Marilyn Kelly said child welfare workers should have done more to show how the mother's current circumstances, and not just her history, required authorities to remove the child.