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Navajo baby to stay with grandparents in Colorado

A complicated child custody case has proved challenging for all involved, including the child’s parents, grandparents and attorneys. At the center of the child custody dispute is a 1-year-old child who is one-half Navajo.

The child was reportedly placed in foster care at birth by the Department of Social Services. While the foster family wanted to keep the child, the baby’s paternal grandparents petitioned for custody. Another complication: they wanted the case to be heard in Navajo Tribal Court.

According to the Valley Courier, that request had been denied, but the parties reached an agreement in court last week after a days-long hearing to terminate the parental rights of the young child’s biological parents. The child was to then be placed in custody of the paternal grandparents and the jurisdiction would be moved to the Tribal Court.

An Alamosa court was to receive notification of the Tribal Court’s acceptance of the jurisdiction change late last week. According to one of the attorneys working on the case, the provisions of the Indian Child Welfare Act were being followed. However, he says, in this country it is often a problem for such provisions to be followed.

This situation is fairly unusual since it involves both grandparents being awarded custody of a child, as well as a child who is caught between two cultures. In this case, it appears that all involved aimed for the best solution for the child’s welfare so that the baby’s cultural heritage could be respected.

Source: Valley Courier, “Court awards Navajo baby to grandparents,” Julia Wilson, Feb. 1, 2012

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