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February 2015Vol. 16, No. 1Report Examines State, Tribal Implementation of ICWA

The Federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) was enacted in 1978 to govern the removal and out-of-home placement of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) children. A new report by David E. Simmons of the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) provides a brief history of ICWA and explores how ICWA has inspired the creation of other new State laws, policies, and practices in child welfare focused on improving services and outcomes for AI/AN children and families.

Research has shown that there is a direct link between the well-being of AI/AN children and families and their connection to their culture, extended families, and Tribal communities. Yet, Federal and State child welfare policies and practices often fail to support these connections. ICWA is intended to correct policies and practices that previously broke cultural and familial connections among AI/AN families. This report describes the basic requirements of ICWA, offers an overview of Tribal child welfare and court systems, and discusses the continued disproportionality of AI/AN children in the child welfare system and how this affects trends in ICWA compliance.

The challenges to creating effective services within Tribal communities are addressed, as is the need for State child welfare agencies to develop more effective processes for handling cases that involve AI/AN children. The report concludes by providing examples of promising practices in ICWA implementation, including State laws, intergovernmental agreements, Tribal-State forums, consultation policies, court procedures, and State agency policies or guidance.

Improving the Well-Being of American Indian and Alaska Native Children and Families Through State-Level Efforts to Improve Indian Child Welfare Act Compliance, published by NICWA and First Focus State Policy Advocacy and Reform Center, is available at (364 KB).

Related Item

For information on new proposals in President Obama's budget to strengthen Tribal child welfare, see the "Associate Commissioner's Page" article in this issue of Children's Bureau Express.