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A Spotlight on Tribal Customary Adoption

"It's not really known by the folks who should know about it."
Dec 8, 2022
Judge Amy Pellman with the 2022 Court Adoption and Permanency Month Proclamation

On December 2, Judge Amy Pellman appeared before the Judicial Council as co-chair of the council's Family and Juvenile Law Advisory Committee to speak about Tribal Customary Adoption.

AB1325 brought Tribal Customary Adoption as an option for American Indian children in foster care in 2010. The legislation was the first of its kind in the United States and allowed Tribal adoption traditions and practices to be recognized by California courts. The bill was supported by over 50 California Tribes and agencies serving American Indians. 

Today, child welfare workers are required to consult with the child’s tribe about the possibility of tribal customary adoption as a permanency option in every case involving an Indian child. As with most complicated practices, Tribal Customary Adoptions aren't fully understood by those who might benefit from it the most.

"It's not really known by the folks who should know about it," shared Andrea, adoptive mother of Eljay from the Cahuilla Band of Indians in Riverside County, who shared her story in a video during the Judicial Council meeting. Andrea adopted Eljay through Tribal Customary Adoption almost one year ago and keeps in contact with the young boy's parents, also members of the Tribe.

She shares her full story in a video message for the council: 

Following the presentation, the Chief Justice thanked Judge Pellman for sharing details about the Tribal Customary Adoption process, and for giving council the "story of the season."

View full presentation