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October 2014Vol. 15, No. 9Video on Indian Child Welfare

The Center for Native American Youth (CNAY) hosted a panel discussion on June 6, 2013, at the Aspen Institute in Washington, DC, aimed at shedding light on the "invisible children" in foster care, specifically, Native American youth overrepresented in child welfare. The discussion focused on the issues this vulnerable population faces and possible solutions. Panelists also talked about the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), what prompted Congress to develop and pass ICWA, how it works today from the perspective of a Tribal official, and what it means relative to Tribal identity. CNAY has made available an 80-minute video of the panel discussion.

Former Senator and CNAY Chairman and Founder Byron Dorgan led the conversation with the following panelists:

  • Hilary Tompkins, Solicitor of the Department of the Interior. Ms. Tompkins spent time in foster care in New Mexico as an infant and was adopted by a non-Indian family that fostered her Tribal identity to the best of their ability. She discussed growing up in a predominately White, New Jersey neighborhood, being different, and reconnecting with her Navajo culture as an adult.
  • Robert McGhee, Treasurer of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. Mr. McGhee discussed growing up as a foster brother, attaining his B.S.W./M.S.W., becoming a social worker and ICWA case worker before entering politics, and being a board member of the National Indian Child Welfare Association and Secretary Tribal Advisory Board, all of which gave him the means and opportunity to challenge law and policy affecting Native American youth.
  • Seanna Pieper-Jordan, a Native American youth from the Blackfeet Reservation, formerly in foster care, Yale graduate, and intern at CNAY. Ms. Pieper-Jordan described her tumultuous childhood and entry into foster care, the initial inability to develop a Tribal identity, the resulting depression and failed suicide attempt as a teen, and her ability to eventually overcome these hardships.

CNAY, a policy program within the Aspen Institute, is dedicated to improving the health, safety, and overall well-being of Native American youth through communication, policy development, and advocacy. Indian Child Welfare - Highlighting the Invisible, may be viewed on the CNAY website:

It is also available on YouTube: