• July/August 2001
  • Vol. 2, No. 4

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Five Reports on Indian Child Welfare Released

Five new research reports provide a fresh look at Indian child welfare issues. Sponsored in 2000 by the National Indian Children's Alliance, a joint effort between Casey Family Programs and the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA), the reports examine different facets of Indian child welfare and suggest ways to improve outcomes for Indian children and families.

Child Well-Being

Charlotte Goodluck and Angela Willeto discuss the gap in literature on Native American well-being indicators and proposed the development of a Native American child data book. The authors provide a contextual overview of issues pertaining to the measurement of child well-being, including the definitions of "American Indian." They present the demographics of the American Indian/Alaskan Native population and the Native child population and evaluate the information provided in various data sources. (Native American Kids 2000: Indian Child Well-Being Indicators)

Foster Care and Adoption Services

Tribes must enter into agreements with States in order to access Federal Title IV-E funds for foster care and adoption services. A study by researchers from Washington University in St. Louis and Philliber Research Associates provides a comprehensive overview of these agreements. The researchers discovered that agreements vary widely and tend to focus on foster care maintenance payments and services. The authors also report that although tribes are limited in their options to access IV-E dollars, they have established good working relationships with their respective States. (Tribal/State Title IV-E Intergovernmental Agreements: Facilitating Tribal Access to Federal Resources)

Family Preservation

Researchers from the University of Minnesota, Metropolitan State University, and the American Indian Policy Center surveyed Indian elders and tribal staff on family preservation to gain insight into family preservation as perceived by American Indian professionals and traditional communities. Their findings point to a need to deemphasize mainstream casework practice and emphasize Indian values and traditional practices. The report also contains a literature review on the effects of Federal policies and laws on Indian culture. (Family Preservation: Concepts in American Indian Communities)

Child Abuse and Neglect

In sampling 10 percent of American Indian tribes, researcher Kathleen Earle found an underreporting of data regarding abuse and neglect of tribal children. Earle's report finds that only 61 percent of the data on child abuse and/or neglect of American Indian and Alaska Native children are reported and that tribes generally are not involved directly in data collection. Suggestions for improving collection of Indian child abuse and neglect data include developing computerized tribal data tracking systems and establishing clear guidelines regarding roles of the Federal government, States, Tribes, and State and Indian child welfare workers. (Child Abuse and Neglect: An Examination of American Indian Data)

Indian Child Welfare Act

In a pilot study of compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act, a research team from the University of North Dakota Law School and the Native American Children and Family Services Training Institute at Sitting Bull College examined cases records, interviewed county caseworkers, and conducted focus groups in nine North Dakota counties with the highest number of children in foster care. The researchers found:

  • A high level of county compliance to determine if a child is a member of a Tribe or eligible for membership.
  • Mixed compliance in notifying Tribes, parents, and Indian custodians regarding placement of Indian children.
  • Many county workers support tribal requests for transfers of jurisdiction, but few tribes actually made such requests.
  • Substantive efforts were made to prevent out-of-home placements in more than half of cases.
  • ICWA preferences were not followed in more than half of placement decisions.

A key finding was that positive tribal-State relations facilitated compliance with the Act and may foster improvement in effective implementation of the Act in North Dakota. (Indian Child Welfare Act: A Pilot Study of Compliance in North Dakota)

Access the reports online at either of these two websites:

  • http://www.nicwa.org/services/initiatives/alliance/index.asp
  • http://www.casey.org/projects.htm#nica (This link is no longer available.)

Contact information:

Jody Becker-Green
NICWA Research Coordinator
5100 SW Macadam Ave., Ste. 300
Portland, OR 97201
Phone: 503-222-4044
Email: beckergreen@nicwa.org
Website: http://www.nicwa.org

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