Court OKs placement of Navajo boy with non-Indians

The Arizona Court of Appeals says a Navajo child can remain with his non-American Indian caretakers, despite a federal law that gives preference to placement with tribal members.

The Tuesday ruling upholds a juvenile court decision that found good cause to deviate from the Indian Child Welfare Act.

The child identified as "Z'' in court records was a month old when relatives of the man believed to be his father began caring for him. The appellate court says the child would suffer severe distress if removed from his setting. The family has been certified to adopt him and pledged to expose him to Navajo culture.

The Navajo Nation argued the culture must be learned in a Navajo home through daily ceremonies and by being surrounded by the language.

The dispute follows a high-profile court case involving a Native American girl adopted by a South Carolina family. In July, the South Carolina Supreme Court upheld the girl's return to her father in Oklahoma under the federal law.