The federal lawsuit challenges a 1978 law that sought to reckon with America’s history of discriminating against Native Americans. Does it hold up 40 years later?
When Chad and Jennifer Brackeen realized that God was calling on them to help children in their area, they first tried to ignore it. They already had two young children of their own, and foster care isn’t exactly known for being easy. But then they did some research and learned of the great need for foster parents in Dallas. They signed up.
The second foster child who was placed in their care was a nine-month-old boy whom the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services had suddenly taken from his home in an emergency situation. The Brackeens weren’t told what had happened, only that he’d be with them for just a couple of months. Months turned into more than a year, during which time the boy’s parents terminated their parental rights and said that they’d support Chad and Jennifer when they filed a petition to adopt the boy, known only as A.L.M. in court documents. Adopting A.L.M. wasn’t their plan, but again God called, and Chad and Jennifer knew they had to answer. According to the complaint, the boy’s court-appointed lawyer supported their petition, and with the backing of A.L.M.’s birth parents, the Brackeens expected the process to be relatively easy: A loving family wanted to adopt a boy from a troubled home. But a state family court denied their petition. The reason, according to the court, was that A.L.M. was Native American. This, the Brackeens learned, changed everything.