Family hopes Utah Supreme Court will let them keep their kids

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A Salt Lake couple's case was argued before the Utah Supreme Court Monday for the right to keep the kids they adopted more than a year and a half ago.

The children, 3-year-old Ella and 9-year-old Anthony, are part Navajo, and the tribe is appealing a ruling they should stay with their adoptive parents based on the Indian Child Welfare Act.

We first met the two playing in their yard, but outside the Matheson Courthouse Monday, the mood was a little more serious.

Family hopes Utah Supreme Court will let them keep their kids

"We're nervous, nervous about what they're going to say," said Suzi Ramos, the children's adoptive mother.

The family was surrounded by friends as they headed into the state's Supreme Court chambers.

"Their greatest concern is the suggestion that the tribe can come in at any time, even when they've been given notice by the ICWA, and disrupt a permanent decision," said the family's attorney, Wesley Hutchins.

A previous juvenile court ruling found the kids should stay with the Ramos family, that the Indian Child Welfare Act was followed and there wasn't an Indian foster family both willing to take the kids and able to pass a background check.

Anthony and Ella were placed with the Ramos family, who adopted them in February of 2008. "At every point in the proceedings, the Navajo Nation's rights were respected. They were notified," said attorney guardian ad litem Martha Pierce.

But Andrew Fitzgerald, attorney for the Navajo Nation, said, "We documented for the court eight violations of the Indian Child Welfare Act."

The Navajo Nation argues the case was flawed from the beginning. They say the children need to be returned to the reservation where a maternal grandmother who initially returned the children to foster care would raise them.

Family hopes Utah Supreme Court will let them keep their kids

"It's not just a Navajo family. It's bloodline family that is wanting them back," said Kandis Martine, also an attorney for the Navajo Nation.

Now that the hearing has been held, the waiting begins. It could take months for the justices to issue their ruling. The Ramos family says until that happens it's life as normal in their world.

"Right now we're going home. We're going to get out of these shirts and ties and go to the zoo," said Ricardo Ramos, the children's adoptive father.

Hutchins says he feels confident the case will go in their favor based on fact the Navajo Nation had more than 19 months to transfer jurisdiction to a tribal court and/or place the children with other family members, which he says they didn't do.

There have also been questions about where the biological parents are; both their parental rights were terminated in 2007. The guardian ad litem says the children consider Suzi and Ricardo Ramos their parents and Salt Lake their home and moving them would be extremely damaging.


Story compiled with contributions from Sarah Dallof and Shara Park.

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