Cathy Osten


Cathy Osten



June 15, 2023


Thursday, June 15, 2023


State Senator Cathy Osten (D-Sprague), who is a strong advocate for Connecticut’s Native American tribes and of other tribes across the country, welcomed today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision which upheld a 1978 law, the Indian Child Welfare Act or “ICWA”, aimed at keeping Native American adoptees with their tribes and traditions.

“This Supreme Court decision today is a big deal. It really is. This decision is a win for humanity and a recognition of the fact that tribal nations are sovereign and that they have the right to govern themselves, and that their citizens are a part of their nation,” said Sen. Osten, whose 19th State Senate District includes the towns of Montville and Ledyard and borders the sovereign tribal nations of the Mashantucket Pequots and the Mohegans. “This year in Connecticut we incorporated the federal ICWA and all its definitions into state statute. We spelled it out in Connecticut, not knowing what the outcome of this Supreme Court decision would be.”

Last year, Sen. Osten successfully passed legislation – House Bill 5336, “AN ACT APPLYING THE PROVISIONS OF THE INDIAN CHILD WELFARE ACT TO CHILD CUSTODY, PLACEMENT, ADOPTION AND TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS PROCEEDINGS INVOLVING AN INDIAN CHILD” – to ensure that the provisions of the Indian Child Welfare Act apply to child custody, placement, adoption and termination of parental rights proceedings involving an Indian child. The bill required the state Department of Children and Families commissioner to make sure that any action or proceeding under the child welfare laws involving an American Indian child’s custody or placement in a foster or adoptive home, or the termination of the child’s parents’ parental rights, is according to the federal ICWA.

This year, Sen. Osten successfully passed legislation – Senate Bill 1204, “AN ACT CONCERNING THE CONNECTICUT INDIAN CHILD WELFARE ACT” – which codified the federal ICWA into Connecticut state statutes; her bill was passed in the event the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the tribes and Connecticut tribal families needed protection. The bill generally codifies into state law the federal Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 which governs jurisdiction over the removal of American Indian children from their families in custody, foster care, and adoption cases. In doing so, the bill expands ICWA’s coverage to the state-recognized Golden Hill Paugussett, Paucatuck Eastern Pequot, and Schaghticoke Tribes (the federal ICWA already applies to federally recognized tribes.)

According to reporting from the New York Times, the U.S. Supreme Court case stems from a white foster couple from Texas who had filed a lawsuit against five tribes and the Interior Department as they battled over the adoption of a Native American child. Under ICWA, preference is given to Native families, a policy that the Texas couple said violated equal protection principles and discriminated against Native children and non-Native families who wanted to adopt them because it hinges on placement based on race. The tribes argued that they

are political entities, not racial groups, and that doing away with that distinction, which underpins tribal rights, could imperil nearly every aspect of Indian law and policy, including measures that govern access to land, water and gambling.

The 1978 ICWA legislation was designed to address the legacy of abuses of Native American children, hundreds of thousands of whom had been separated from their tribes to be raised by families with no connection to their culture.