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August 2012Vol. 13, No. 7ICWA Resource Guide for MI Judges

Guidance for State court judges on the requirements of the Federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is provided in a recent publication from the ICWA Special Committee of the Michigan State Court Administrative Office. The publication, Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978: A Court Resource Guide, aims to educate Michigan judges about the provisions of ICWA to ensure compliance. The guide explains, in detail, the provisions of ICWA, related Federal regulations, and the less formal but more specific guidance provided by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). 

An introductory section, "ICWA Fundamentals," provides several universal terms and concepts that apply to all ICWA proceedings. Other sections provide more specific guidance on the types of child custody cases that judges commonly encounter, including foster care placements, guardianships, parental rights termination, and adoptive and preadoptive placements. The guidelines help judges determine which proceedings fall under ICWA jurisdiction, the proper parties to involve in an ICWA case, burdens of proof, and the benefits of collaborating with the Department of Human Services (DHS) and the child's Tribe.

Appendices provide an array of resources, including Michigan Tribal contact information and service area maps; recommended "active efforts" inquiries; contacts, resources, and information on ICWA and Tribal issues; ICWA bench guide checklist; the full text of the Indian Child Welfare Act; BIA Guidelines for State Courts; and a series of flowcharts that provide guidance on the decision-making process and when cases must be transferred to a Tribal court.

Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978: A Court Resource Guide is available on the Michigan Courts website: (1 MB)