Fifth Circuit to Rehear Indian Child Welfare Act Challenge

Today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued an order directing a challenge to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) to be reheard en banc — before the entire Fifth Circuit. As previously reported, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit had held ICWA Constitutional in August, finding it was not a race-based statute that would violate the Equal Protection Clause.

Read the full article at the Indian Country Today website.

Read the statement from the Protect ICWA Campaign at the Native American Rights Fund website.

US Supreme Court declines to hear Oglala, Rosebud case against South Dakota officials

The Supreme Court didn’t give a reason it declined to hear the case that began in 2013, when the Oglala and Rosebud Sioux Tribes and three parents in Pennington County brought a class action lawsuit against state Department of Social Services and Pennington County officials.
The American Civil Liberties Union, representing the tribes and parents, alleged that Native American parents weren’t receiving fair preliminary hearings when their children were removed from the home, including that parents couldn’t have an attorney present and couldn’t see documents given to the court by DSS.

Read the full article at the Argus Leader website.

Commentary: Appeals Court Affirms Indigenous Children Belong to a Political Class, not Racial

In the 21st century, we are still fighting to protect indigenous children whether it is north or south of the Mexican border. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decision to uphold the Indian Child Welfare Act was a critical step to keep our families, communities and identities intact. Now, some legal protections need to be enacted for the indigenous children being stolen at the Mexico border.

Read the full opinion piece at the Grand Forks Herald website.

Fifth Circuit Court Rules that ICWA is Constitutional (Brackeen v. Bernhardt)

United States: Fifth Circuit Upholds Indian Child Welfare Act As Constitutional. Akin Gump (Aug. 14, 2019)

Federal District Court of Appeals Upholds Indian Child Welfare Act. Nonprofit Quarterly (Aug. 13, 2019)

EDITORIAL: ICWA ruling a victory for tribes. Tahlequah Daily Press. (Aug. 13, 2019)

Fifth Circuit Court reaffirms Indian Child Welfare is constitutional. The Ada News (Aug. 12, 2019)

Paxton likely to challenge ruling upholding Indian adoption law. Austin Statesman (Aug. 12, 2019)

Fifth Circuit Squarely Rejects Challenge to ICWA. The National Law Review (Aug. 12, 2019)

Indian Child Welfare Act Upheld By Fifth Circuit. KGOU (Aug. 12, 2019)

5th Circuit upholds Indian Child Welfare Act as constitutional, reversing lower court. The TexasTribune (Aug. 10, 2019)

Court panel upholds Indian Child Welfare Act. Newscenter ABC 11 (Aug. 9, 2019)

Federal Law Protecting Indian Children and Families Will Stand. The Chronicle of Social Change (Aug. 9, 2019)

Court ruled that ICWA is constitutional. Indian Country Today (Aug. 9, 2019)

Her Native American identity was omitted from her adoption records. Now she wants it back.

Now 18, Carlisle was placed into the foster care system as an infant and adopted when she was a child, but one box checked on her foster care and adoptive records identify her as African-American. There’s no mention of her Native roots, meaning the state doesn’t legally recognize her status.
She’s spent the last two years ping-ponging between county and state officials to add her Native American heritage to her records, to no avail.

Read the full article at the Wadena Pioneer Journal website.

Opinion: Family Ties: A Look at Familial Connections in Adoption & Child Welfare

During her testimony, Representative Smith described her disillusion with some social workers who only look at potential foster and adoptive parents from a European standard; in doing so, Smith stated that they dismiss and diminish cultural norms that are in place to provide positive reinforcements for Native children. Having heard stories of other parents of color involved in the child welfare system, I have noticed that they have had similar interactions. What was most enlightening was the fact that tribal governments and their cultural kinship ties are protected by the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

Read the full article at the Milwaukee Courier website.

The Fight Over Native American Adoptions Is About More Than Just the Children

Now the [Indian Child Welfare Act] is facing its most serious challenge yet. In a case that has implications far beyond the adoptions of American Indian children, three non-Native families and three Republican state attorneys general have sued the federal government saying that the ICWA relies on racial classifications that violate the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

In October, a federal judge in Texas agreed, striking down the Indian Child Welfare Act for the first time in its 41-year history. The government, joined by five tribes and supported by many more, appealed the case to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, but advocates of the law are worried that if the court upholds the earlier decision, it could call into question all other federal Indian laws.

The battle is at once profoundly personal for each family involved and simultaneously so broad that many believe it could reshape U.S.-Indian relations for generations to come. It is about reckoning with the nation’s brutal past and protecting the possibility of its future.

Read the full article at the Time website.

Opinion: Protecting Native Children, Letter from Oneida Nation Vice Chairman Yellowbird-Stevens

The Indian Child Welfare Act was established to ensure that children benefit from Native families remaining together. Our families should not ever fear the removal of their children from their tribes and their culture. It is in the best interest of Indian children to keep their connections to their culture, communities and extended families. It’s troubling that anyone would suggest otherwise.

Read the letter at the New York Times website.

How a Right-Wing Attack on Protections for Native American Children Could Upend Indian Law

A LAW KEY  to preventing state welfare agencies from separating Indigenous children from their families is at risk of being overturned thanks to the yearslong effort of a network of libertarian and right-wing organizations.

In the 1970s, between a quarter and a third of Indigenous children across the United States had been removed from their homes. Social services often cited neglect or deprivation — euphemisms for poverty — as grounds for placing children in the custody of non-Native families and institutions, offering birth parents little opportunity for redress. Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978 in order to reform a system designed to destroy Indigenous people.

Read the full article at The Intercept website.

Who Can Adopt a Native American Child? A Texas Couple vs. 573 Tribes

Zachary, or A.L.M. as he is called in legal papers, has a Navajo birth mother, a Cherokee birth father and adoptive parents, Jennifer and Chad Brackeen, neither of whom is Native American. The Brackeens are challenging a federal law governing Native American children in state foster care: It requires that priority to adopt them be given to Native families, to reinforce the children’s tribal identity.

Read the full article at the New York Times website.

US Supreme Court Denies Review of Arizona Child Welfare Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has denied review of an Arizona case challenging a law that gives preference to American Indians in adoptions of Native children.
The order last week leaves in place a lower court ruling that dismissed a complaint from a Phoenix-based, right-leaning think tank.

Read the full article at the Navajo-Hopi Observer.

Read related article from the Navajo-Hopi Observer: “Indian Child Welfare Act Still Under Debate as Supreme Court Rebuffs Bid to Void the Act.”

Noojimo’iwewin: A VAWA and ICWA Training (Brimley, MI)

Please join the Bay Mills Indian Community for this multi-disciplinary, tuition-free training geared toward child welfare and domestic violence advocates to implement effective service and advocacy strategies in cases involving child welfare, domestic violence, or both. Minnesota CLEs are available for this training.

This training will be in Brimley, Michigan on August 1-2, 2019. For more information, please visit the training website.

Navajo Nation Wins Appeal in Indian Child Welfare Act Case

The Arizona Court of Appeals ordered a new hearing Thursday over the guardianship of a 6-year-old child who is subject to the Indian Child Welfare Act.

The Navajo Nation appealed the case, The Navajo Nation v. Department of Child Safety et al., in October 2018 after the juvenile court failed to hear the testimony of a qualified expert witness as required by the ICWA in the child’s guardianship case.

Read the full article at the Arizona Public Media website.

Oversight Panel for Oregon’s Troubled Child Welfare System Will Bring Expertise, Diverse Specialties

But a week ago, citing a “crisis” in child welfare, Brown called for creation of the advisory board and other steps to give her more direct control of the agency with an aim of getting it to improve and to do so quickly. She issued an executive order to put her wishes into effect.

The new oversight board will meet at least every other week to decide what the child welfare agency should do. Brown also will install an on-site crisis management team to ensure Pakseresht and Child Welfare Director Marilyn Jones implement the board’s recommendations. The governor will also embed one of her senior advisers at the child welfare agency to oversee the work, her order says.

Read more about the panel, which includes National Indian Child Welfare Association Executive Director Sarah Kastelic, at The Oregonian website.

Applications Open for Office of Child Care Non-Profit Organization Grants

On April 23, 2019, ACF’s  Office of Child Care (OCC) announced the availability of funds and requested applications for:
* American Indian and Native Hawaiian Nonprofit Organization Child Care Grant
* Native Hawaiian Nonprofit Organization Child Care Grant

Each of these competitive funding opportunity announcements (FOA) provides grant funding for a private, nonprofit organization to provide child care services through funding from Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) formula grants. Eligible applicants may apply for funding under both FOAs, but they would only receive one award.
If an American Indian organization is already receiving funding under a CCDF formula grant directly with OCC, the grantee will not be eligible to receive such funding for the same service area under this funding opportunity. Projects will be funded for up to $1 million per year overthree years. Optional letters of intent are due by May 8, 2019, and applications are due by June 24, 2019.

See the Administration for Native Americans website for more information.

Funding Opportunity: $3.8 Million for National Child Welfare Capacity Building Center for Tribes

The US Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, announced a funding opportunity for the establishment of a national child welfare capacity building center for tribes. The estimated funding available was $3,770,700. Funding opportunity number HHS-2019-ACF-ACYF-CZ-1557 (CFDA 93.648, 93.652, 93.658). Posted on April 19 with an application closing date of June 18.

Read the full grant announcement at

Proposed Law Would Make it Easier for Native Americans to Argue their Side in Child Custody Cases

California lawmakers are considering a proposal to make it easier for Native American tribes to make their arguments in child custody cases.
Technically, the proposed legislation, AB 686, would let lawyers or other representatives of Native American tribes appear by phone or electronically in cases involving the possible removal of Native American children from their families and tribes.

Read the full article at the Daily Bulletin website.

Announcing the First Comprehensive Study on Child Removal in Native Communities

The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, First Nations Repatriation Institute, and the University of Minnesota are pleased to announce the launch of our study: Child Removal in Native Communities. This is an anonymous survey about American Indian and Alaskan Native experiences and impacts of child removal to #BreakTheSilence and #BeginTheHealing.

If you are a boarding school survivor, have boarding school history in your family, or have you ever been adopted or placed in foster care, we need your help! You can take the survey now at:

Read the full announcement at the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition website.

Who Should Get to Adopt Native American Children?

Another way that ICWA differs from conventional child welfare laws is that it mandates “active efforts” to keep children with their families or tribe. In most regular child protection cases, social-service workers are obligated to provide “reasonable efforts” to help parents and children reunify, such as offering lists of treatment facilities, therapists, affordable-housing agencies or other resources that could help parents get their lives back on track. “Active efforts,” by contrast, require social-service agencies to do more, such as supplying bus tokens, phone cards and rides to get to those services, says White Hawk. In addition to providing attorneys for qualifying ICWA family cases, the law center also employs “Indian advocates” and “parent mentors,” individuals who meet with families, help them to get appointments and find housing, and go with them to court to explain how the process works. It’s more-intensive support, but advocates say that it is what their clients need. “Our families are coming to us in crisis most of the time,” Smith told me. “So having those connections and helping them walk through what that process can be like, and giving them hope along the way, makes all the difference.” Those sorts of active efforts, she adds, should be used for all families, regardless of background.

Read the full article at the Washington Post website.

American Indian Adoptees Deal with Painful Past and Family Separations

Despite these challenges, Native American adoptees continue to lead a resilient fight both inside and outside the child welfare system to address disparities, often by providing support systems and advocates beyond what county or state governments offer families. And Native-led organizations hold the government accountable, ensuring that agencies and courts properly uphold ICWA and honor tribal sovereignty.

Read the full, in-depth article at the Indian Country Today website.

Trump Administration Forms Presidential Task Force for Protecting Native Children in IHS

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump announced the formation of the Presidential Task Force on Protecting Native American Children in the Indian Health Service System.
A senior administration official hosted a White House conference call, and released statements to the media which outlined that President Trump has “charged the task force with investigating the institutional and systemic breakdown that failed to prevent a predatory pediatrician from sexually assaulting children while acting in his capacity as a doctor in the Indian Health Service.”

Read the full article at the Indian Country Today website.

Read related media coverage:

White House announces Presidential Task Force. KBJR6 website.

After doctor abused children on reservation, task force will investigate Indian Health Service. Associated Press.

Appeals Court Hears Case on Adoptions of Native Americans

 1978 law giving preference to Native American families in foster care and adoption proceedings involving American Indian children is an unconstitutional race-based intrusion on state powers that has caused families to be “literally torn apart,” an attorney told a federal appeals court March 13.
But supporters of the decades-old law say it’s needed to protect and preserve Native American culture and families. In court, lawyers for Indian tribes argued that the law’s definition of an Indian child is based not on race, but on tribal political affiliations.

Read the full article at the Navajo-Hopi Observer website.

Latest Edition of ABA book Outlines New Regulations of the Indian Child Welfare Act

The American Bar Association’s recently published book, “The Indian Child Welfare Act Handbook: A Legal Guide to the Custody and Adoption of Native American Children, Third Edition,” focuses on the new federal regulations of the ICWA and important cases decided during the last 10 years. Authors Kelly Gaines-Stoner, Mark C. Tilden and Jack F. Trope have expertly updated this edition with important clarifications on what the law means and how it should be applied.

Read the full press release at the American Bar Association website.

Colorado is Out of Compliance with Indian Child Welfare Act

Colorado is out of compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act, which requires courts make an effort to place Native American children in state custody with tribal or Native homes. House Bill 1232, co-sponsored by Rep. Marc Catlin, R-Montrose, offers minor fixes to Colorado laws for administering ICWA.

“This proposed law writes into Colorado law what federal law already requires,” said Judge Brett Woods, who presides over the Denver Juvenile Court.

Read the full article at the Durango Herald website.

Stateline: Indian Child Welfare Act Likely Headed to Supreme Court

A case before a federal appeals court could upend an historic adoption law meant to combat centuries of brutal discrimination against American Indians and keep their children with families and tribal communities.
For the first time, a few states have sued to overturn the federal Indian Child Welfare Act, which Congress enacted in 1978 as an antidote to entrenched policies of uprooting Native children and assimilating them into mainstream white culture.
Now, in a country roiled by debates over race and racial identity, there’s a chance the 41-year-old law could be overturned by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, considered the country’s most conservative court. (The law applies to federally recognized tribes.)

Read the full article at the website.

Fawn Sharp: The Attack on the Indian Child Welfare Act Cannot Stand & Louisiana Solicitor General Commentary “absurd and illogical”

With the fate of the Indian Child Welfare Act in the hands of a federal appeals courts, tribes and some states have come together to defend the law, which Congress enacted in 1978 to address the high rates of Indian children being taken from their families and their communities.

Read the full opinion piece at the website.

I felt compelled to write today after reading a recent commentary by the Louisiana solicitor general criticizing the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). It is absurd and illogical to compare the placement of an Indian child with a tribal family to sending a child off to live in a foreign country. 

Read the full letter at The Advocate website.

Media Coverage of Fifth Circuit Hearing in Brackeen v. Bernhardt

Non-Indians think they know better than Indians what is best for Native American children, said lawyers for the Navajo Nation in arguments before a federal appeals court.
It’s a bold argument, but goes to the heart of the case in Brackeen v. Bernhardt. Under the Indian Child Welfare Act, Indian tribes have priority over non-Indians in Native American adoptions.
Last year in Texas, a trial judge struck down the Act. Now the tribes are defending ICWA in the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Read the full article at the website.

Read related coverage at:

Fate of Native Children May Hinge on U.S. Adoption Case

A case before a federal appeals court this week could upend an historic adoption law meant to combat centuries of brutal discrimination against American Indians and keep their children with families and tribal communities.
For the first time, a few states have sued to overturn the federal Indian Child Welfare Act, which Congress enacted in 1978 as an antidote to entrenched policies of uprooting Native children and assimilating them into mainstream white culture.
Now, in a country roiled by debates over race and racial identity, there’s a chance the 41-year-old law could be overturned by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, considered the country’s most conservative court. (The law applies to federally recognized tribes.)
Overturning the law, its proponents say, could significantly increase the number of American Indian children adopted into non-Native families.

Read the full research article at the Pew Trusts website.

Utah Signs Inter-Governmental Agreement to Support Navajo Families

February 5, 2019
Yesterday, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes met with the leadership of the Navajo Nation, reported on the proceedings of the ICWA lawsuit, and signed an Inter-Governmental Agreement (between DCFS & Navajo Nation) with Governor Gary R. Herbert.

The Agreement is the result of a two-year process working with the Navajo Nation on the principles of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). It states the intent to support the fundamentals of ICWA, to adhere to the tribal processes concerning families and children, and to ensure that when a Navajo child is unable to return home, they will be placed with a Navajo family.

Read the full press release and related news coverage at the Utah Office of the Attorney General website.

Tribal Adoption Parity Act Reintroduced

U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, John Hoeven, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Tom Udall and Jerry Moran reintroduced the bipartisan Tribal Adoption Parity Act legislation that would bring parity to tribal government for the adoption tax credit.

Read the full article at the Minot Daily News website.

Assessing An NPR Report On The Indian Child Welfare Act

A Dec. 17 report on All Things Considered about the Indian Child Welfare Act prompted harsh criticism from the Native American Journalists Association, which called it “inaccurate and imprecise.” A meeting between NAJA leaders and NPR editors resulted in a clarification being posted on the online version of the piece, but NAJA members continued to have concerns about the reporting. 

Read the full article from the NPR ombudsperson at the NPR website.

NAJA Agrees with NPR ombudsman assessment of flawed ICWA story

The Native American Journalists Association supports the assessment of National Public Radio’s Ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen regarding the story “Native American Adoption Law Challenged As Racially Biased.”

Read the full response at the Native American Journalists Association website.

2018 ICWA by the Numbers

There were 206 appealed ICWA cases this year, down 7 from last year. However, there were 50 reported cases this year, which is nearly 20 more than last year. As always, California leads the states with 125 cases, 9 were reported. Alaska is second with 11, 3 reported. Montana had 10, including 7 reported, which is up considerably from last year. Colorado had 8, 7 reported, as did Michigan with 2 reported. Arkansas had 6, with 5 reported, and Arizona, Ohio, and Texas all had four (1, 3, 1 reported, respectively). Illinois had three (finally) though reported none of them, and Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, New Jersey, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Washington all had two (only Missouri, Oklahoma, and South Dakota reported their cases).  Finally the following states had 1 appellate ICWA case: Connecticut, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Wisconsin, North Dakota.

Read the full article at the Turtle Talk blog.

Overwhelming Support for ICWA

Joint Press Release from National Native Organizations on the Overwhelming Support for the Indian Child Welfare Act

Available at

Screenshot of tribal amicus brief, click to see document

(Portland, Ore., January 18, 2019)—On Wednesday, January 16, 2019, 325 tribal nations, 57 Native organizations, 21 states, 31 child welfare organizations, Indian and constitutional law scholars, and seven members of Congress joined the United States and four intervenor tribes in filing briefs to urge the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to uphold the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), the long-standing federal law protecting the well-being of Native children by upholding family integrity and stability.

“The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is child welfare best practice. Thirty-one leading child welfare organizations stated that ICWA serves the best interest of Native children and families with their declaration that ICWA is the ‘gold standard’ of child welfare policy,” said Sarah Kastelic, executive director of the National Indian Child Welfare Association. “As experts in research, education, advocacy, and providing services related to child welfare, adoption, and court-system reform, these organizations know that ICWA ensures all children and families receive the protections they deserve and that all children fare better when placed with family.”

“The National Congress of American Indians is moved by the overwhelming support to uphold the Indian Child Welfare Act, which protects the best interests of American Indian and Alaska Native children. Tribal nations know, firsthand, the positive impact, the certainty, and stability that ICWA provides to our children in state-based child welfare systems,” said Jefferson Keel, president of the National Congress of American Indians. “Bottom line, ICWA works and the FifthCircuit Court of Appeals should overturn the erroneous district court decision and support American Indian and Alaska Native children and families because it’s the right thing to do.”

“The State of Texas and other Plaintiffs, supported by the Goldwater Institute, bring this litigation against the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) stating that it seeks to protect the equal rights of American Indian children,” said Shannon Keller O’Loughlin, executive director of the Association on American Indian Affairs, “but ICWA is equal rights and human rights legislation. Statistics show that state systems continue to remove Indian children from their families at greater rates than white children, even though incidents of neglect or abuse are similar. Current studies that have researched systemic bias in the child welfare system have found that Indian families were two times more likely to be investigated and four times more likely to have their children removed and placed in foster care than their white counterparts. ICWA was meant to provide protections against this systemic bias and reduce the overrepresentation of Indian children into these systems.”

“The Native American Rights Fund, along with our co-counsel at Dentons, is honored to represent the 325 tribal nations and 57 Native organizations that are signatories to the Tribal Amicus Brief,” said Erin Dougherty Lynch, senior staff attorney at the Native American Rights Fund. “The district court’s interpretation of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) has never been adopted by any other court, makes no practical sense, is directly contrary to ICWA’s policy and purpose, and finds no support in centuries of established federal Indian law. Indian Country is united in its support for ICWA, and we are confident the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will overturn the district court’s decision.”

See related news coverage:

Tribes Come Together to Challenge the Indian Child Welfare Decision at the Indian Country Today website.

Tribes Offer Overwhelming Support for the Indian Child Welfare Act at the Navajo-Hopi Observer.

Attorney General Ferguson Urges Appeals Court to Preserve Indian Child Welfare Act news release at the Washington State Office of the Attorney General website.

Alaska Official Call on Court to Uphold Indian Child Welfare Act at the KTOO Public Media website.

Lawmakers File Bipartisan, Bicameral Amicus Brief in Support of the Indian Child Welfare Act at the Office of Tom Cole (R-Okla) website.

AG Brnovich Joins Bipartisan Coalition in Defense of Law that Protects Native American Children at the Arizona Attorney General website.

Alaska Fights Ruling on Native Adoption Law at the Bristol Bay Times website.

Cronkite News: Tribes on ‘Pins and Needles’ in Indian Child Welfare Act Case

The Indian Child Welfare Act requires that Native American children be placed in Native American foster or adoptive homes, where possible, to maintain their heritage and identity.
The law is being challenged with increasing regularity in courts and by special-interest groups who contend it prioritizes race over a child’s best interest.
In October, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Texas declared key parts of the act unconstitutional, the first time any court has struck down the law.
That decision has been appealed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by the federal government and by multiple tribes, including the Navajo and Cherokee nations. But Tamera Shanker, an attorney who represents the ICWA unit of the Navajo Nation Office of Child and Family Services, believes the question will ultimately end up before the Supreme Court.

Read the full article at the website.

S.D. Supreme Court: Man Serving Life Can’t Invoke ICWA

A 5-0 decision by the South Dakota Supreme Court says a man who admitted to killing his wife and is serving a life sentence in prison did not have his rights under a federal Indian adoption law violated when a Brookings judge awarded custody of his child to the slain mother’s brother and sister-in-law.

Read the full article at the Rapid City Journal website.

Udall, Heinrich Hail Senate Passage of Resolution Recognizing 40th Anniversary of the Indian Child Welfare

[Dec. 13, 2018]WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and Martin Heinrich praised the Senate passage of a bicameral resolution commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), and recognizing its importance to promoting the stability and security of Tribal communities and families. 

Read the full press release at the US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs website.

Indian Child Welfare Act Remains in Force after Appeals Court Order (Brackeen v. Zinke)

A federal appeals court granted a stay requested by the four tribes on Monday to preserve the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act.

“The law is going to stay the same for now,” said Dan Lewerenz, one of the attorneys working on the Brackeen v. Zinke case.

That means Native American families will stay together under the law.

Read the full article at the Indian Country Today website.

Read related:

“Court puts hold on controversial Indian Child Welfare Act ruling” at the website. (12/4/2018)

U.S. to defend Indian Child Welfare Act (Brackeen v. Zinke)

The United States will join four tribes defending the Indian Child Welfare Act against a district court ruling in Texas.

The Department of Justice, with the Department of Interior and Health and Human Services, and their officials, filed a notice of appeal on Nov. 30 to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, according to a joint statement from the National Indian Child Welfare Association, the National Congress of American Indians, the Native American Rights Fund, and the Association on American Indian Affairs.

Read the full article at the Indian Country Today website.

Related coverage:

“A Long Legal Battle is Expected as Tribes Appeal Texas Court Ruling on ICWA” at the Indian Country Today website. (11/27/1018)

“Tribes Appeal, Seek Stay on Indian Child Welfare Act Ruling; Feds Yet to Act” at the Chronicle of Social Change website. (11/21/2018)

“Why conservatives are attacking a law meant to protect Native American families” at the Washington Post website. (11/21/2018)

‘Dawnland’ Documents Untold Story of Native American Child Removal in the U.S.

“Dawnland” is premiering on the PBS series Independent Lens, as part of November Native American Heritage Month programming.

The investigation by the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission represented a groundbreaking moment in the history of tribal-state relations and its goal was to uncover and acknowledge the truth about what happened to Wabanaki children and families involved with the Maine welfare system.

From 2013 to 2015, Native and non-Native commissioners travelled across Maine, gathering testimony about the impacts of the state’s child welfare practices on families in Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy and Penobscot tribal communities, which together comprise the Wabanaki people.

Read the full article at the Navajo-Hopi Observer website.

Read related article, “Dawnland Documentary Shows How the U.S. Government Took Indigenous Children From Their Homes — and Placed Them With White Families,” at the Teen Vogue website.

Responses to ICWA Court Ruling

Treppa: Why the ICWA is critical to the health of native children and tribal communities

A Texas judge’s recent decision to strike down the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA, sets a dangerous precedent that unravels federal policy carefully designed to correct centuries of tragic injustices committed against Indian people.

It not only threatens the wellbeing of Native children and their families, but also tribal sovereignty. Further, the ruling could undo many of the collaborative relationships our tribes have forged with local governments and states that already acknowledge the benefits of preserving Native families.

Read the full op-ed at the Lake County News website.

Preserving the Culture and Traditions of Indian Children and Families

October 23, 2018

In passing the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) in 1978, the clear intent of Congress was to protect the best interest of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families. Oversight and enforcement authority regarding the provisions of ICWA was left to judges presiding over child custody cases.

Read the full statement on the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges website.

Joint Statement on Indian Child Welfare Case Brackeen v. Zinke Ruling

In a decision published by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) was declared unconstitutional, jeopardizing the landmark legislation protecting tribal children.

This egregious decision ignores the direct federal government-to-government relationship and decades upon decades of precedent that have upheld tribal sovereignty and the rights of Indian children and families. Through 40 years of implementation, ICWA’s goal is to promote family stability and integrity. It continues to be the gold standard in child welfare policy.

Read the full statement on the Native American Rights Fund website.

Court Strikes Down Landmark Indian Child Welfare Act Ruling

A federal appeals court has delivered a major blow to tribes and parents who have been seeking stronger enforcement of the Indian Child Welfare Act in South Dakota.The Oglala Sioux Tribe, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and three Indian parents went to court more than five years ago, alarmed by the large numbers of Indian children being taken from their families. They secured a historic ruling which confirmed that the state was violating ICWA by failing to provide adequate notice in child welfare proceedings.”Indian children, parents and tribes deserve better,” Judge Jeffrey L. Viken stated in his landmark March 2015 ruling.But that victory is no more. In a unanimous decision, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals last week set aside the ruling, saying Viken went too far when he ordered the state to improve compliance with ICWA, the 1978 law that remains under attack throughout the nation.

Read the full article at the website.

Read related article from The Chronicle of Social Change.

Appeals court won’t rule on challenge to Indian Child Welfare Act

A federal appeals court has turned away a closely-watched conservative challenge to the Indian Child Welfare Act.The Goldwater Institute sued the federal government and the state of Arizona, arguing that ICWA is racist because it only applies to “Indian” children. But the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals declined to rule on the merits of the claim because a panel of judges noted that all of the four children involved in the case have been adopted.

Read the full article at the website.

Read related coverage at the Navajo-Hopi Observer website.

Glendive Woman Sues Over Child Custody Dispute That Put Tribal, Minnesota Courts at Odds

A Glendive woman is suing the Bureau of Indian Affairs for $1 million over a 2015 child custody dispute that pitted state and tribal courts against each other.

Patsy Fercho, 64, fled to the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in 2015 with her two grandchildren in an attempt to avoid a Minnesota court’s order granting custody to the kids’ father.

Read the full article at the Montana Standard website.

Miccosukee Tribe Ties Child Welfare Case to Violence Against Women

The Miccosukee Tribe is defending its handling of a child welfare case that has drawn national attention.The tribe said a newborn was taken from her mother, a Miccosukee citizen, in order to protect the baby girl and her older siblings from domestic violence. The mother had previously been victimized by her non-Indian former partner, whose presence at the hospital during the birth earlier this month led the maternal grandmother to seek custody of the baby.

Read the full article at the website.

Read related coverage from the Tuscaloosa News article, “Legal experts say tribe overstepped authority in seizing baby

5-year-old Native American Boy to Remain in Ohio for Now

A 5-year-old Native American boy at the center of controversy for more than a year will remain with his Coshocton County foster family, for now.

Last week, the Ohio Court of Appeals reversed an earlier juvenile court ruling that would have sent the preschooler 2,000 miles from his home to a reservation in Arizona. The ruling stated the juvenile court should not have granted custody without first conducting a full evidentiary hearing taking into account the best interest of the child.

Read the full article at the Coshocton Tribune website.

Read related news coverage at “Conservative group claims victory in Indian Child Welfare Act case” from

Who Can Adopt a Native Child?

Since the passage of ICWA in 1978, the law has been labeled the “gold standard” for child welfare laws — and not just for Indian children. Policies created under ICWA have been adopted by some states to ensure that children are only removed from their homes as a last resort. To honor the children and preserve the memory of what life was like before ICWA, Sandy White Hawk, a Sicangu Lakota citizen from South Dakota, hosts an annual powwow called Gathering of Our Children, where she welcomes people who were adopted or fostered out to non-Native families. She’s been able to uncover and share the stories of hundreds of children from all over the country who have been reunited with their Native families.

The Goldwater Institute, however, says that it is “fighting for equal protection of Indian children.” It cites a handful of cases where “active efforts” to reunify Indian children with abusive parents — rather than immediately placing with foster families or putting them up for adoption — traumatized the children. It points to cases like one in Oregon, in which the state terminated a couple’s parental rights to their son after they failed to follow through on court-ordered counseling and therapy. The institute has not provided any other details, including whether the boy, who is referred to simply as “L,” was abused or neglected.

Read the full article at the High Country News website.

New Indian Child Welfare Act Challenges On The Horizon

Two types of challenges to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), 25 U.S.C. § 1901 et seq., now feature prominently: equal protection challenges and challenges based on the “intrafamily dispute” exception to ICWA. A petition for a writ of certiorari to decide both issues is currently pending in one such case: S.S. v. Stephanie H. S.S. notwithstanding, tribal attorneys and ICWA practitioners must now be prepared to address both types of challenges in the near future.

Read the full article at the JD Supra website.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Written Advisement Form Does Not Satisfy ICWA Notice Requirements

The Department contended that mother’s signing of a written advisement of her rights, which included a question about the ICWA, served as the court’s initial inquiry. The inquiry should be made on the record. Regardless, the Court of Appeals found that the Department failed to send notice to the appropriate tribes when mother identified a reason to believe the children were Indian children.

The case was remanded with instructions for the limited purpose of directing the Department to send appropriate notice to the Kiowa Indian Tribe of Oklahoma and the Pueblo of Taos.

Read the full case summary at the Colorado Bar Association website.

South Dakota’s Federal ICWA Ruling Heads To 8th Circuit Court of Appeals

The Indian Child Welfare Act lawsuit filed in Rapid City’s federal court almost five years ago is going to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. A three-judge panel is hearing oral arguments in St. Paul, Minn., on Tuesday, Feb. 12.

In March 2013, the Rosebud and Oglala Sioux Tribes, as well as tribal parents, brought suit against state officials in Pennington County. They claim the process for handling abuse and neglect cases routinely violates ICWA and due process rights.

Listen to the full story on the South Dakota Public Broadcasting Radio website.


For the Children: Oklahoma Inter-tribal Task Force Tackles Policy Solutions

On December 14th, the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) hosted its first Indian Child Welfare Task Force meeting. This gathering brought together inter-tribal and state agencies with a focus on respecting the government-to-government relationship the State of Oklahoma has with each of the 38 federally recognized tribal nations headquartered in our state.

Read the full article at the Oklahoma Welcome website.

Historic Alaska Tribal Child Welfare Compact Signed

Alaska Governor Bill Walker used an appearance Thursday at the annual Alaska Federation of Natives convention in Anchorage to sign a historic compact between the State of Alaska, tribes, and tribal organizations. The compact will allow tribes and tribal organizations to provide child welfare services and programs that previously were delivered by the Alaska Office of Children’s Services.

Read the full article at the SitNews website.

Download the compact.

Read related news coverage:

Alaska and its tribes sign child services compact (Alaska Public Radio)

Alaska tribes and state sign historic document on tribal child welfare (Alaska Dispatch News)

Walker signs child welfare compact with Alaska tribes (Daily News-Miner)

Supreme Court Won’t Take up Race-Based Challenge to Indian Child Welfare Act

Without comment, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition in S.S. v. Colorado River Indian Tribes. The action, which came in an order list on Monday morning, lets stand a decision from Arizona, where opponents of ICWA tried to undermine the landmark law by claiming it is based on “race.” The Arizona Court of Appeals rejected that contention in a January 12 decision. And the Colorado River Indian Tribes, whose attorneys participated in the case to protect two children who have been involved in a custody dispute, noted that the “race” issue has long been settled.

Read the full article at the website.

Read related coverage from the Navajo Hopi Observer website, the Havasu News-Herald website and the Cronkite News website at AZ PBS.

Wisconsin Supreme Court: Conference on Child Welfare and the Courts Seeks Innovative Solutions to Complex Problems Facing Today’s Children And Families

Madison, Wis. (Oct. 16, 2017) – More than 350 court, child welfare, school, tribal representatives, and legal professionals from across Wisconsin will join forces Oct. 18-20 in Elkhart Lake to find better ways to serve youth and their families involved in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

Read the full article at

2017 Report on Disproportionality of Placements of Indian Children

Research and data from states tell us that American  Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) children are disproportionately represented (or overrepresented) in the child welfare system nationwide, especially in foster care. This means that higher  percentages of AI/AN children are found in the child welfare system than in the general population. The overrepresentation of AI/AN children often starts with reports of abuse and neglect at rates proportionate to their population numbers, but grows higher at each major decision point from investigation to placement, culminating in the overrepresentation of AI/AN children in placements outside the home. One study found that, due in large part to systematic bias, where abuse has been reported AI/AN children are 2 times more likely to be investigated, 2 times more likely to have allegations of abuse substantiated, and 4 times more likely to be placed in foster care than White children.
Read the full report at the NICWA website.

New court to connect Native American foster kids with family

Bonnie Littlesun is raising eight children, all but one of whom are her grandkids, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“They’re crazy,” she said, laughing. It was midmorning and she had a brief break while her grandbaby slept and the others were at school. The kids range in age from 13 months to 18 years old.

Read the full article at the Spokesman-Review website.

ND Child Support Program Recognized for Collaboration With Tribal Child Support Programs

The North Dakota Department of Human Services’ Child Support Division recently received the 2017 Partnership Award
from the National Tribal Child Support Association for its collaboration with tribal child support programs in accessing federal offset payments that support tribal children and  families. “Partnerships with other jurisdictions are vital in child support. Borders shouldn’t be barriers when it comes to  supporting children and families,” said Jim Fleming, the state’s child support director
Read the full press release at the ND Human Services website.

New Lawsuits say Mormon Church Failed to Protect American Indian Children

The number of lawsuits alleging Mormon church leaders failed to protect children from sexual abuse has grown to include two more Navajos and a member of the Crow Tribe.

Thousands of American Indian children, most of whom were Navajo, participated in a now-defunct church-run foster program from the late 1940s until around 2000. The program was meant to give children educational opportunities that didn’t exist on the reservations.

The lawsuits contend certain foster families harmed children.

Read the full article at The Salt Lake Tribune website.

Stealing Children: A Look at Indigenous Child Removal Policies

“So they turned to this policy of trying to close down the boarding schools and they turned toward a policy of trying to turn over the education and care of Indian children to the states,” says Jacobs.

While there were some American Indians working for the BIA in the ‘50s and some sympathy to the problems of Indian families, says Jacobs, “there were rarely any American Indian people working in the state bureaucracies. And there were rarely any people trained to have any sensitivity to American Indian societies or concerns. So this move to change the jurisdiction over Indian children to the states was a move that contributed to greater numbers of Indian children being removed from their families, fostered by white families and eventually moved into the adoption system.”

Jacobs says a close examination of the records shows that 25 percent to 35 percent of Indian children were removed from their families.

Read the full article at the Indian Country Today website.

Indian Child Welfare Act Conference set for Thursday at Choctaw

The seventh annual Indian Child Welfare Act Conference is scheduled Thursday at the Silver Star Convention Center at Choctaw.

Tribal leaders and as many as 200 attorneys, judges, social workers and other professionals who deal with Native American children in a youth court setting are expected to attend the conference.

Read the full article at the Meridian Star website.

See related coverage at “Choctaw Tribe Works to Prevent Foster Care” on the WTOK-Newscenter 11 website.

U.S. Supreme Court Asked to Weigh Havasu (AZ) Lawyer’s Case

Under the Indian Child Welfare Act, parental rights can only be severed if it is found beyond a reasonable doubt that the children are at severe risk of harm. Testimony to this fact must come from expert witnesses, and under tribal law, it must be proven that an effort was made to keep children with their biological parents.

According to Rideout, application of the Indian Child Welfare Act in custody cases such as this would be detrimental to the children involved. Rideout this week filed an appeal of CRIT’s [Colorado River Indian Tribes] decision with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Read the full article at the Havasu News website.

ABA Conferences to Address Child Welfare Developments (Virginia)

WASHINGTON, April 13, 2017 — Lawyers, judges, social workers and advocates will explore developments in the children’s law field during four conferences sponsored by the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law the week of April 24. Among the topics covered will be immigration, psychotropic medications, the Indian Child Welfare Act, child sex trafficking, a national legislative agenda and shaken baby syndrome.

Preconference on the Indian Child Welfare Act, April 24
5th National Parent Attorney Conference: Valuing Dignity
and Respect for all Families
, April 25-26

 A Right-Wing Think Tank Is Trying to Bring Down the Indian Child Welfare Act. Why?

Cloaking its efforts in the language of civil rights, Goldwater has launched a coordinated attack against ICWA alongside evangelical and anti-Indian-sovereignty groups, adoption advocates, and conservative organizations like the Cato Institute. Since 2015, Goldwater has litigated four state or federal cases against ICWA, and filed several briefs in support of other cases. Goldwater’s stated goal is to have the US Supreme Court strike down ICWA as unconstitutional. The implications go far beyond child welfare: Many tribal members fear that if Goldwater is successful, it could undermine the legal scaffolding of Native American self-determination.

Read the full article at the The Nation website.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Dependency and Neglect Court Should Have Followed ICWA’s Notice Requirements

On appeal, A.T. contended that the order should be reversed because the Department did not comply with the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) notice requirements. First, when there is “reason to know” the child is an Indian child, the juvenile court must ensure that the Department sends notice to any identified Indian Tribe. Second, the court must “[t]reat the child as an Indian child, unless and until it is determined on the record that the child does not meet the definition of an ‘Indian child.’” Here, the Department did not meet its obligation to provide notice of the proceedings to any of the Apache Tribes. The juvenile court did not address whether the Department used due diligence to identify and work with an Apache Tribe to verify whether L.L. was a member or was eligible for membership and did not treat L.L. as an Indian child pending the Tribes’ verification.

Read the full case summary at the Colorado Bar Association website.

Opinion: An Indian Child Welfare Act Disappointment: Lack of Support from Tribe

This past Monday morning (March 13) in a courtroom in Alameda County I witnessed three non-Native attorneys and a non-Native judge make the decision to end reunification and move towards terminating Allen Kepa’s parental rights. It was a broken day for Native American children and Native American Parents. The Honorable Judge Ursula Jones spoke about this child not considering her father as family. Heartbreaking.

Read the full opinion from Mona M. Evans at the Indian Country Media website.

Court rejects challenge to law safeguarding Native children and families

Photo of girl playingMarch 17 – Yesterday, the federal District Court for the District of Arizona dismissed A.D. v. Washburn, a case brought by the Goldwater Institute challenging the Indian Child Welfare Act’s (ICWA) application to Native children in the Arizona foster care system. This case was an attempt by a special interest group to dismantle the law that has protected thousands of Native children and families nationwide.

Read more at the Native American Rights Fund’s blog.

Read related news coverage at the website and Indian Country Media Network website.


Centuries Old Practice of Removing Indian Children From Their Homes Continues Despite ICWA

One might be surprised to know that the removal of Indian children from their families is still going strong, seemingly unabated. For example, in Pennington County, South Dakota, the state has removed more than 1,000 children from their Native American families since 2010. A 2013 class action lawsuit and a 2015 validation by Chief Federal District Court Judge Jeffrey L. Viken revealed that Pennington County officials were not only removing the Indian children “on grounds not based on evidence,” but holding hearings in state court within 48 hours of removal and denying parents access to legal counsel, the right to testify, or notice of why their Indian children were taken. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the hearings lasted [from] 60 seconds up to five minutes, “and the state won 100 percent of the time.”

Read the entirety of Dr. Hannel’s opinion article at the Indian Country Media Network website.

In South Dakota, Officials Defied a Federal Judge and Took Indian Kids Away From Their Parents in Rigged Proceedings

In March 2015, Chief Federal District Court Judge Jeffrey L. Viken confirmed what our complaint had alleged: State employees were removing children from their homes and then holding hearings in state court within 48 hours, in which parents were not assigned counsel to represent them, were not given a copy of the petition accusing them of wrongdoing, and no state employee was called to testify. Moreover, the parents were not permitted to testify, call witnesses, or cross-examine any state employee. The hearings typically lasted fewer than five minutes — some were done in 60 seconds — and the state won 100 percent of the time.

That’s right, 100 percent.

Read the full article at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) website.

Indian Child Welfare and Wellness conference to be held Feb. 22-24 (ND)

The Indian Child Welfare and Wellness Conference will be held Feb. 22-24 at the Baymont Inn and Suites in Mandan.

The Native American Training Institute will host the 16th annual conference, which will cover child welfare issues, juvenile justice, cultural and tribal relations, as well as child behavioral health.

Read the full announcement at the Bismark Tribune website or visit the Native American Training Institute website to register.

Indian Child Welfare Court in Duluth Aims for Better Outcomes for Native American Families

Two years ago, Tarnowski attended a training in Duluth given by the National Child Welfare Resource Center on Legal and Judicial Issues. Stories of historical trauma that have helped lead to that disparity, and also what led to the creation of the Indian Child Welfare Act, were shared, Tarnowski said, creating “a little fire in my belly.”

“I wanted to try something new,” she said.

With the help of the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Center for Regional and Tribal Child Welfare Studies, she formed a group of area public and tribal child welfare workers, from reservations ranging from Grand Portage to White Earth, to meet regularly over lunch. That group helped inform the new court. It also has helped build stronger relationships and understanding between everyone involved, said Brenda “Bree” Bussey, project director of the UMD Center for Regional and Tribal Child Welfare Studies.

Read the full article at the Duluth News Tribune website.

State Pledges $400,000 to Reduce Number of Indian Children in Foster Care (MN)

With the number of American Indian children in Minnesota foster care reaching “unacceptable” levels, the state pledged Thursday to spend $400,000 over the next three years to reduce those numbers.

The announcement comes after a Star Tribune report found that Minnesota has more Indian children in foster care than any other state, including those with significantly larger Indian populations. Less than 2 percent of children in Minnesota are Indian, but they make up nearly a quarter of the state’s foster care population — a disparity that is more than double the next-highest state.

Read the full article at the Star Tribune website.

NICWA Releases New Online Intro to ICWA Course

National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) has released a new online Introduction to ICWA course. It features the basics of ICWA, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ guidelines published December 12, 2016. The course uses an interactive platform designed to keep the learner engaged through teachings on the basics provisions of ICWA, case scenarios for application, and a comprehensive course assessment. Completion of the course results in a print-ready certificate, including 4.5 Continuing Education Units accredited by the National Association of Social Workers.

Learn more and register at the NICWA website.

Information about the Comprehensive Child Welfare Information System

The Comprehensive Child Welfare Information System (CCWIS) final rule was published in the Federal Register on June 2, 2016. The CCWIS final rule replaces the Statewide/Tribal Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS/TACWIS) requirements to address changes in child welfare practice and advances in information technology that have occurred since the regulations were published in 1993.

Get more information on What’s New in Laws and Policies from the Children’s Bureau website.

UMD Leads American Indian Child Welfare Act Project (MN)

UMD’s Center for Regional and Tribal Child Welfare Studies, which is part of the Department of Social Work, will serve as the grant’s lead organization and will work with six other organizations including courts, child welfare agencies, and tribes, to determine the most successful methods to help children and families.

Read the full announcement at the Business North website.

Native Tradition a Vital Part of Advocate’s Strategy

“The important thing to remember is that you’re not saving these children,” Walksalong said. “You’re helping them.”

Walksalong began in October working as CASA’s Indian Child Welfare Act program coordinator. Part of her job is helping programs like the Center for Children and Families and Child and Family Services, understand the cultural background of Native American children.

Read the full article at the Billings Gazette website.

Applications Now Accepted for 2017 Funding

From the National Indian Child Welfare Association:

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is accepting applications for Systems of Care grants to support mental health services and systems for children, youth, and families in tribal communities.

The purpose of this infrastructure program is to provide tribal communities with the tools and resources to implement or expand a community-based, coordinated system of care model for children’s mental health.

Applications filed now are for funding beginning in October 2017.

NICWA facilitated a recorded webinar on November 10, 2016, to:

  • Explain the purpose and goals of the funding opportunity;
  • Walk through each element of the FOA and provide tips for successful applications;
  • Encourage tribal applications; and
  • Answer questions

Learn more about the grant at the SAMHSA website.

Tribal applications are encouraged! The deadline is January 3, 2017.  

Girls Caught in Custody Battle After Parents are Killed in Head-On Collision

The children have recovered from their injuries, but they now are innocent victims of a custody battle that pits their relatives in Visalia, Calif., against relatives in the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians in Placerville, Calif.

The case in U.S. District Court in Sacramento is being closely watched because a federal judge has ruled that Visalia residents Efrim and Talisha Renteria, who are Sharnae Cuellar’s uncle and aunt, should have temporary custody of the three children.

The Shingle Springs tribe is crying foul.

Read the full article at the Myrtle Beach Online website.

UND Receives Funding to Develop ICWA Training and Implementation Support

The University of North Dakota Department of Social Work has received a $2.4-million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to support implementation and evaluation of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) in North Dakota over the next five years.

UND is partnering in this grant with the Children and Family Services Training Center, the North Dakota Supreme Court, the North Dakota Bureau of Indian Affairs, the North Dakota Division of Children and Family Services, the Native American Training Institute, the Spirit Lake Nation and the Standing Rock Nation. The CFSTC is housed in the UND Department of Social Work; the Center provides training for all child welfare workers across the state and will develop new training on best practices in ICWA implementation.

Read the full article at the University of North Dakota website.

Tribes Creating own Foster Program

Local Native American tribes are creating their own child foster care system in response to problems statewide in implementing the Indian Child Welfare Act, put in place to ensure native children are placed in Tribal homes.

The Yurok Tribe and Tolowa Dee-ni Nation are developing a Title IV-E program that would allow them federal funding to cover foster payments and services and give them greater autonomy.

Read the full article at the Del Norte Triplicate website.

Implementing and Defending the Indian Child Welfare Act Through Revised State Requirements

The issuances by the Department of the Interior of non-binding guidelines in 2015 and of legislative rules in 2016 are opportunities for states to promptly examine their current practices and standards and voluntarily adopt the guidelines and regulations as enforceable state requirements. New York State is an example of a state that has evidenced support for implementation of the [Indian Child Welfare] Act, but in a number of respects its current requirements fall short of the federal recommendations and rules. This Note urges states, with jurisdictions such as New York taking a leadership role, to act now to adopt the guidelines and regulations. Doing so will conform existing state practices to best practices and federal standards and, importantly, signal a strong commitment to the Act and to the best interests of Indian children, tribes, and families.

Read the full article from the Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems website.

California’s Highest Court Won’t Disrupt Placement of Choctaw Nation Girl

The courts in California have determined that the 1978 law applies to a Choctaw Nation girl who has been placed with relatives in Utah. But a non-Indian couple — aided by an attorney who has tried to weaken ICWA — has insisted on fighting.

The battle will continue after the California Supreme Court on Thursday refused to review the girl’s placement. The non-Indian couple quickly vowed an appeal.

Read more at the website.

Families, Tribes, and the Indian Child Welfare Act (Essay series from Cato Unbound)

The  Indian Child Welfare act is a unique piece of legislation that governs the settlement of family law cases for children of Native American descent. Critics allege, however, that its definition of who counts as a Native American, as well as several other aspects of the law, can often work against children’s best interests. The ICWA can end up placing children in danger, sometimes in pursuit of no particular tribal goal at all. Critics counter that the ICWA is a needed corrective after many decades of deliberate erasure of tribal heritage, and that whatever faults the law may have, something like it is still necessary to preserve the integrity of Native American cutures.

Joining us to discuss this controversial law are Timothy Sandefur, Vice President for Litigation at the Goldwater Institute; Professor Matthew L. M. Fletcher of Michigan State University; Professor Kristen Carpenter of the University of Colorado; and Cato Institute Senior Fellow Walter Olson.

Read more at the Cato Unbound website including:

Lead Essay

Response Essays

Matthew Fletcher: The Next U.S. Supreme Court Justice’s Impact On The Indian Child Welfare Act

Justice Antonin Scalia’s death impacts Indian country in dramatic ways. Last term, the most critical tribal court jurisdiction appeal to hit the Supreme Court of the United States in decades was affirmed by a 4-4 tie in favor of tribal jurisdiction. The court declined certiorari in a pair of tribal labor relations cases where there was a gaping circuit split, possibly because the justices foresaw yet another 4-4 tie. The next justice may be the deciding vote in cases that bring the same questions, but bigger cases involving the Indian Child Welfare Act(ICWA) are in the pipeline.

Read the full article at the Turtle Talk website.

Gila River Indian Community Weighs Options After Losing Indian Child Welfare Act Case

Although the proceeding only involved one child, it’s being closely watched because the non-Indian foster couple is being represented by the Goldwater Institute. The conservative-leaning organization, which is based in Arizona, has launched a public relations and legal campaign aimed at undermining and even invalidating the landmark Indian Child Welfare Act.

Read the full article at the website.

In Minnesota, American Indian Kids are in a Foster Care Crisis

Minnesota has more American Indian children in foster care than any other state, including those with significantly larger Indian populations, according to a Star Tribune analysis of federal and state data. Less than 2 percent of children in Minnesota are Indian, but they make up nearly a quarter of the state’s foster care population — a disparity that is more than double the next highest state.

Read the full article at the Minnesota Tribune website.

Indian Status Is Not Racial: Understanding ICWA as a Matter of Law and Practice

Critics complain that ICWA is a race-based statute that improperly limits the options of Indian children based on their race. But no matter how you look at it, that’s just wrong. First, Indian status is not “racial” but rather “political” as a matter of law. The closest analogy to the Cherokee Nation is not a racial group like African Americans or Latinos, but rather a government like the state of Oklahoma, albeit a government that is unique because of its culture and history.

Read the full article at the Cato Unbound website.

Walker Signs Two Bills into Law

Gov. Bill Walker has signed into law bills intended to help foster youths and ease adoption in Alaska.

Among other elements, House Bill 200 implements portions of the Indian Child Welfare Act that ease the adoption process for tribal members adopting a child of the same tribe. The bill also allows up to four legal proceedings involved in adoption cases to be combined under the purview of one judge.

Read the full article at the Juneau Empire website.

Report: Compliance with Indian Child Welfare Act Spotty

When it was first passed into federal law nearly 40 years ago, the Indian Child Welfare Act was a beacon of hope for many in the Native American community who considered the legislation a civil rights victory. But a lack of compliance from child welfare agencies has led a tribal task force in California to find that neither the federal nor state versions of the act are being properly carried out.

Read the full article at the Desert Sun website.

DOI Announces Trainings on New ICWA Regulations

Dear Tribal Leader:
We would like to invite you and/or your child welfare designee to trainings on the recently published final regulations governing the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The final ICWA rule was published in the Federal Register on June 14, 2016 (see 81 Fed. Reg. 38778), and takes
effect on December 12, 2016.

As many tribes noted in their comments on the rule, training is essential to ensuring that this new rule meets its potential for strengthening implementation of ICWA and reinforcing ICWA’s protections for families and youth. This Department-hosted training will focus on providing information on the new rule’s requirements for State courts and agencies and the role of tribes in the procedural and substantive protections afforded it. …

Read the full letter and training schedule at the U.S. Department of Interior website.

California Appeals Court Rules in Favor of ICWA Placement Preference in R.P. et al. v. J.E. et al.

On Friday, July 8, 2016, the Court of Appeal of the State of California – Second Appellate District upheld a lower court’s decision in R.P. et al. v. J.E. et al. that used the Indian Child Welfare Act as its basis to remove a four-year-old female child from her non-Native foster family.

We have twice remanded the matter because the lower court used an incorrect standard in assessing good cause. The dependency court has now correctly applied the law governing good cause, considering the bond Alexandria has developed over time with the P.s, as well as a number of other factors related to her best interests. Those other factors include Alexandria’s relationship with her ex tended family and half-siblings; the capacity of her extended family to maintain and develop her sense of self-identity, including her cultural identity and connection to the Choctaw tribal culture; and the P.s’ relative reluctance or resistance to foster Alexandria’ s relationship with her extended family or encourage exploration of and exposure to her Choctaw cultural identity.

Because substantial evidence supports the court’s finding that the P.s did not prove by clear and convincing evidence that there was good cause to depart from the ICWA’s placement preferences, we affirm.

Find a case summary and the full opinion at the court’s website.

NICWA to Host Webinar on ICWA Regulations

From the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA):

The National Indian Child Welfare Association is pleased to announce that we are hosting an informational webinar on the newly announced Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) regulations on

Thursday, June 23, 2016, at 12:30 p.m. Pacific/3:30 p.m. Eastern.

On June 8, 2016, the Bureau of Indian Affairs released the first legally-binding federal guidance on how to implement ICWA. The regulations will go into effect 180 days from the date of their release, providing time for state agencies, private agencies, and state courts to prepare for their implementation.

Learn more and register at the NICWA website.

We’re Just a Vote Away From Helping Alaska’s Foster Children (by Donna Walker)

 Donna Walker, First Lady of AlaskaImagine a foster child finally getting a permanent home, but having to leave her friends and teachers behind to make that happen. Upturning one part of a child’s life to create stability in another part happens too often with foster children. We owe it to Alaska children in foster care to make their transition back to their home or to new homes, whether temporary or permanent, as seamless and supported as possible.

Read the full piece at the Alaska Dispatch News website.

Judge in South Dakota Sanctioned in Indian Child Welfare Act Case

A judge in South Dakota has agreed to pay $50,000 in sanctions in an Indian Child Welfare Act case. Judge Jeff Davis did not admit to “concealing” information sought by the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, two of the plaintiffs in the case. But he agreed to pay attorney’s fees for failing to turn over key documents that explain how the state courts handled proceedings involving Indian children.

Read the full article at the website.

Read a related article at the Native Times website.

Tester Introduces Major Legislation to Help Indian Country Fight Growing Drug Epidemic

Tester’s bill, the Tribal Youth and Community Protection Act, will reestablish the ability for tribes to arrest and prosecute any offender for drug related crimes, domestic violence against children, and crimes committed against tribal law enforcement officers.

“Tribal communities must have every tool they need to protect themselves from folks who traffic illegal drugs and harm children in Indian Country,” Tester said. “This bill gives tribes certainty and provides tribal law enforcement with the tools they need to police and prosecute every criminal in their community.”

Read the full press release at Senator Tester’s website.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Sam Hirsch Speaks at the National Indian Child Welfare Association Conference

This is a critical time for Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), our nation’s keystone federal law protecting Indian children.  As you’ve already heard this morning and will hear more about during the conference, there is a lot of exciting activity in this area, at the federal, state and tribal level.  Federal engagement is at unprecedented levels.  But in recent years, we’ve also seen increasing attacks on the statute and on tribal sovereignty more generally.  The need for all of us to engage on these issues has never been greater.

Read the full remarks at the Department of Justice website.

Alaska Supreme Court Orders State to Enforce Tribal Child Support Orders as Essential

In a major decision on child support, the Alaska Supreme Court stopped a Parnell administration effort against tribal rights that lingered during Gov. Bill Walker’s reign.

The court ruled unanimously Friday in a case going back to the beginning of the decade that tribes have authority over child support. The court directed the state to enforce tribal support orders like it does those issued by other states, even if one of the parents isn’t a tribal member.

Read the full article at the Alaska Dispatch News website.  Read related articles at the Juneau Empire website, the Native News website and the website.

Indian Children’s Law in Choctaw Foster Case Praised by Some, Criticized by Others

A California couple’s fight to reunite with a 6-year-old foster child who was taken from their home last week because she is 1/64th Choctaw Native American has cast a spotlight on the Indian Child Welfare Act.

The law has been long hailed as a protective tool for Native American communities by some and criticized as misinterpreted and misguided by others.

Read the full article at the NBC News website.

California Returns Child to Family in ICWA Case (Updated 3/28/2016)

On Monday, March 21, pandemonium broke out in Santa Clarita, California, at the home of foster couple Summer and Russell Page as social workers from the Department of Children and Family Services arrived to pick up a 6-year-old girl who was being held by the couple in defiance of a court ordering her returned to relatives after a five-year custody battle.

Read the full article at the Indian Country Today Media Network website.

See more coverage:

“Indian Child Welfare Act to separate foster daughter from family” at the ABC7 Chicago website (3/21/2016)

“NCAI Supports Responsible, Informed Response to California ICWA Case” at the Indian Country Today Media Network website (3/23/2016)

“Santa Clarita foster parents appeal to state Supreme Court in tribal custody battle” at the LA Times website (3/23/2016)

“Custody case of Native American girl appealed to high court” at the Eastern University Waltonian website (3/24/2016)

Historic Agreement Gives Tribe Foster Care Control: Jurisdiction Over Child Welfare to Transfer from State to Tlingit and Haida Central Council

When children are taken out of their homes due to neglect or abuse, they’re under the responsibility and jurisdiction of the State Office of Children’s Services.

Now, through an agreement signed Wednesday night at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall between the State of Alaska and Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, the Central Council will be able to take over child welfare cases of tribal children.

Read the full article at the Juneau Empire website and at the Alaska Business monthly website.

Victory for Tribes as Judge Reaffirms South Dakota Decision

Citing a “fundamental lack of competence,” a federal judge on Friday, February 19 denied South Dakota’s motion to reconsider an earlier decision, which found the state violated the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and denied Indian parents their Constitutional rights. In March 2015, Judge Jeffrey Viken issued a partial summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs in Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Luann Van Hunnik regarding emergency removal hearings, also known as “48-hour hearings,” in Pennington County, South Dakota.

Read the full article at the Indian Country Today Media Network website.

Read related news coverage at the website.

ICWA: Victory for Tribes as Judge Reaffirms South Dakota Decision

The class action case is now in its third year, having been filed in March 2013 by three Indian mothers and the Oglala and Rosebud Sioux Tribes in South Dakota to address ongoing violations in that state. According to tribal officials and advocacy groups, approximately 750 Indian children a year are swept into foster care, sometimes for months on end, with virtually no compliance with state and federal law.

For decades, Indian parents in Pennington County have been refused court-appointed counsel as stipulated in ICWA, the right to speak in their own defense, cross-examine witnesses or present evidence at the emergency hearings, many of which lasted less than 90 seconds, their suit alleged. They were also denied the right to review the secret petitions filed against them, documents which are routinely available only to the judge.

Read the full article at the Indian Country Today Media Network website.

Title IV-E Conference Calls Scheduled for March 8th and 10th

From the National Indian Child Welfare Association:

On February 12, 2016, the Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced two tribal consultation calls regarding a new round of Title IV-E Foster Care program development grants. Title IV-E funds placement activities related to foster care, relative guardianship, adoption, and independent living services.

There have been fewer than expected tribes participating in the program to date. The consultations will provide interested tribes with information on the Title IV-E program and a chance to share their concerns or questions regarding Title IV-E and the development grants.

The bureau will hold tribal consultation calls to discuss this opportunity on two dates:

  • Tuesday, March 8, 2016 (11:00 am PT; 2:00 pm ET)
  • Thursday, March 10, 2016 (11:00 am PT; 2:00 pm ET)

The call-in number for both consultation calls is: 1-888-220-3087, Passcode: 8699239

Report: States’ Consultation and Collaboration with Tribes and Reported Compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act


The Children’s Bureau conducted a review of the states’ 2015–2019 Child and Family Services Plans (CFSP) and prepared a report titled “States’ Consultation and Collaboration with Tribes and Reported Compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act: Information from States’ and Tribes’ 2015–2019 Child and Family Services Plans.”  This report was prepared in response to a request made by the Health and Human Services Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee (STAC) for additional data regarding state consultation with tribes and implementation of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).  The report summarizes information related to state implementation of ICWA, and consultation and collaboration with tribes. The report also includes information reported in a sample of tribes’ CFSPs pertaining to ways in which states consulted and collaborated with tribes.

Download and view complete report here.

Film Explores Native American Child Displacement

Rucinski & Reetz Communication unveiled last week its video titled “Missing Threads: The Story of the Wisconsin Indian Child Welfare Act.” The hour-long documentary represents nearly three years of work and “explores the connection between family, tribal culture and children, and the consequences of severing those ties,” said Susan Reetz, a partner in the communication firm.

Read more at the Wausau Daily Herald website.

Federal Judge Dismisses Anti-ICWA Suit

On Thursday a federal judge in the Eastern District of Virginia dismissed a suit challenging both the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act and the new federal guidelines that were implemented last February by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, citing a lack of subject matter jurisdiction and standing in the case.

Read the full article at the Indian Country Today Media Network website.

Conference Focuses on ICWA

Tekamuk Training and Events, a wholly-owned enterprise of the Mesa Grande Band of Mission Indians, has joined forces with Columbia Law School, the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), and the National American Indian Judges Association to present the Indian Child Welfare Summit, a major national conference on the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), December 7-9 in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Read more at the Native American Times website.

Disenrollment from Pala Band Affects Children in ICWA Case

Two children who were disenrolled by the Pala Band of Mission Indians cannot be protected by the Indian Child Welfare Act, a California appeals court ruled on Tuesday.


The tribe formally objected in July 2009 when K.P. and Kristopher were put up for adoption. Their mother, Michelle T., is enrolled.


But sometime during the proceedings, the tribe disenrolled the children. As a result, they are no longer considered “Indian,” the court determined.

Read the full article at the website.

S. Rept. 114-37 – Amending the Indian Child Protection and Family Violence Prevention Act…

The failure to protect children has a damaging impact on the quality of life on Indian reservations. Native youth are 2.5 times more likely to be victims of abuse or neglect than youth of other ethnicities. Children exposed to violence are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol and suffer from depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic disorders. These issues may compound or lead to failures or difficulties in school and delinquent or criminal behavior.

Read the full report at the U.S. Congress website.

Congress Should Bolster Jurisdiction of Tribal Courts Over Violence Against Children, ABA Urges

The [American Bar Association] ABA is urging Congress to follow the recommendations of recent reports by the U.S. Justice Department and the Indian Law and Order Commission that call for giving American Indian and Alaska Native tribes more authority to exercise criminal jurisdiction and apply their own remedies in cases that occur on tribal lands, especially when they involve children

Read the full article at the ABA Journal website.

State, Feds Defend Tribal Adoption Law

In court filings Friday, attorneys for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the state Department of Child Safety federal agency acknowledged the Indian Child Welfare Act does require state courts when placing Indian children for adoption to give preference to a member of the child’s extended family. That is followed by priority by other members of the child’s tribe and, ultimately, other Indian families.

But they told U.S. District Court Judge Neil Wake that Congress had a valid reason for approving the law.

Read the full article at the Casa Grande Dispatch website.

Tribes Awarded $1.8M for Child Welfare and TANF Coordination

HHS’ Administration for Children and Families, Office of Family Assistance awarded $1.8 million to eight tribes and tribal organizations in Alaska, Montana, California and Washington to help strengthen vulnerable families through the tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) child welfare coordination grants.  The grants fund tribes to demonstrate models of effective coordination between tribal TANF programs and child welfare services for low-income tribal families at risk of child abuse or neglect.

Read the full press release at the Dept. of Health and Human Services website.

Couples Sue Over Tribal Adoption Hurdles

For nearly four decades, couples wishing to adopt American Indian children out of troubled situations have faced several hurdles, including giving the child’s tribe a chance to find suitable tribal parents first.

Now some prospective adoptive parents, Indian birthparents and members of the adoption industry are challenging the laws and regulations involved.

Read the excerpt at the Family Law Prof blog or read the full article at the Wall Street Journal website.

NICWA Conference: 34th Annual Protecting Our Children (April 3-6, 2016 | St. Paul, Minnesota)

This annual conference will include the following tracks:

  • Data and Research: Learn about current research in the fields of Indian child welfare, children’s mental health, and youth development. Learn how to use and share data.
  • Child Welfare, Foster Care, and Adoption Services: From grant writing for child welfare programs to implementing differential response and identifying best practices in family team decision making, explore topics including providing effective prevention services and planning for youth engagement.
  • Children’s Mental Health: Leaders in the field of children’s mental health will share experience and information on the issues that impact Indian children everywhere.
  • Youth and Family Involvement: Learn to engage youth and families involved with systems in an empowering, strengths-based way. Gain insight on trauma-informed methods of engaging youth and families in productive ways; learn steps to developing successful youth leaders.
  • Legal Affairs and Advocacy: Learn about tribal, federal, and state laws and policies and how they are implemented.

Learn more and register at the conference website.

Pala Band of Mission Indians Will be First Tribe to Protect Native American Children in California’s Welfare System

The Pala Band of Mission Indians is the first tribe in California to receive clearance to conduct LiveScan background checks for tribal foster homes under new State law (Senate Bill 1460). The tribe is also the first to apply to the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Office of Justice Services (BIA-OJS) program, Purpose Code X, to assist tribal services agencies within federally recognized tribes that are seeking to place children in safe homes during an emergency situation, when parents are unable to provide for their welfare.

Read the full article at the PR Newswire website.

UA Researchers Release New Findings in Tribal Child Welfare Study

The Native Nations Institute at the University of Arizona and the National Indian Child Welfare Association have released a report detailing the second part of a study on tribal welfare codes designed to protect children and youth….

Based on the study’s findings, the team affirms that:

·      To help protect children from abuse and neglect, 70 percent of the tribal codes make specific requirements for reporting suspected child abuse and neglect.

·      To ensure paternal rights and responsibilities, 60 percent of tribal codes create processes for establishing or acknowledging paternity.

·      Whereas the Indian Child Welfare Act acknowledges that tribes may take jurisdiction over their children, 61 percent of tribal codes assert explicit jurisdiction over tribal citizen children on and off the reservation.

Read the full article about the study at the Native Times website.

Download the reports:

Part I:

Part II:

Study of Coordination of Tribal TANF and Child Welfare Services: Interim Findings Report

From the website of the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation; Office of the Administration for Children and Families; U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services:

Fourteen tribes and tribal organizations received demonstration grants from the Office of Family Assistance for Coordination of Tribal TANF and Child Welfare Services to Tribal Families in 2011. The purposes of these grants were to provide innovative and contextually relevant approaches to coordinating services between welfare and child welfare systems. The grantees were expected to provide one or more of the following services: (1) improved case management; (2) supportive services and assistance to tribal children in out-of-home placements; and (3) prevention services and assistance to tribal families at risk of child abuse and neglect. This report summarizes grantees’ midterm experiences with direct services and inter-agency coordination gleaned from interviews, observations, and document reviews.


Omaha Tribe of Nebraska Plans Native Foster Care System to Preserve Culture

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded the tribe a $300,000 grant to create an independent tribal-run family services program for enrolled Omaha members.

“We know what’s best for our children and our youth,” Omaha Tribal Council Chairman Vernon Miller said Thursday. “The federal government recognizes that.”

Read the full article at the Sioux City Journal website.

Opinion: George Will Gets It All Wrong in His Attack on ICWA

Race is ugly business. The business of race can be seen in the higher rates of incarceration of black Americans. It is in the higher rates black Americans and Native Americans are killed by law enforcement. It is an aspect of our existence that we created, and one that has no basis in fact. George F. Will attempts to attack the issue of racial separation by targeting the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). He fails.

Read the full article at the Indian Country Today Media Network website.

Opinion: The Blood-Stained Indian Child Welfare Act

By treating children, however attenuated or imaginary their Indian ancestry, as little trophies for tribal power, the ICWA discourages adoptions by parents who see only children, not pawns of identity politics. The Goldwater Institute hopes to establish the right of Indian children to be treated as all other children are, rather than as subordinate to tribal rights.

Read the full opinion at The Washington Post website.

CASA Sets Fall Child Advocate Training (Oklahoma)

CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Cherokee Country is a local volunteer program that recruits and trains community volunteers to serve as advocates for abused and neglected children in juvenile deprived proceedings, an volunteers are greatly needed….CASA volunteer child advocate training will be offered to individuals age 21 or older in October. Certification will be granted upon completion of the 30-hour training course and six hours of courtroom observation.

Visit the Muskogee Phoenix website for more information.

Assistant Secretary Washburn Announces a New Program to Assist Tribal Social Services Agencies in Placing Children in Homes (updated)

Aug. 19, 2015 – Assistant Secretary, Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn today announced a new Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Office of Justice Services (BIA-OJS) program to assist federally recognized tribal social services agencies seeking to place children in safe homes.

Read the full press release at the U.S. Department of the Interior website.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs will help tribes conduct background investigations to ensure children are being placed in safe homes. The agency’s Office of Justice Services will be on-call 24 hours a day for tribal social services agencies. They will be able to check the names of adults before placing children in a foster or temporary home.

Read the full article at the website.

Read related coverage at the Spokesman-Review website  and on the Lexology blog.


ABA House of Delegates Urges Quick Implementation of Recommendations of Attorney General Taskforce

On August 4, 2015, the American Bar Association House of Delegates unanimously adopted Resolution 113, which adopts and urges prompt implementation by the Administration, Congress, and state and tribal governments of specific recommendations contained in the November 2014 report of the U.S. Attorney General’s Advisory Committee on American Indian/Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence…

Read more and find the resolution at the Turtle Talk blog.

14th Annual Native Nations Law Symposium

September 11, 2015 (White Cloud, KS): 14th Annual Native Nations Law Symposium. The Sac and Fox Nation of Missouri in Kansas and Nebraska presents the 14th annual Native Nations Law Symposium. The symposium includes an overview on the Indian Child Welfare Act – Revised Bureau of Indian Affairs Guidelines for State Courts & Agencies. Learn more and find a registration form at the Turtle Talk blog.

Washtenaw (MI) Trial Court Celebrates Reunification Day

“We want to spend a moment to celebrate the successful reunification of families in foster care and honor the professionals who work in this field,” Sankaran began. “This is one of many celebrations across the country but the only one in the state. We are proud as a community to put together this event and this is something we believe  in.”

Read the full article at the Legal News website.

Michelle Obama to Native American Youth: The Country Needs You

More than 1,000 Native American children gathered Thursday for the first-ever Tribal Youth Gathering at the White House, where first lady Michelle Obama called them precious and sacred members of society.

“Each of you was put on this Earth for a reason. Each of you has something that you’re destined to do, whether that’s raising a beautiful family, whether that’s succeeding in a profession or leading your community into a better future,” she said. “You all have a role to play and we need you.”

Read the full article at the Newsweek website.

War of Words: ICWA Faces Multiple Assaults From Adoption Industry

“At this point it is pretty clear that anti-ICWA advocates, who primarily represent adoption interests, have started a coordinated attack on ICWA,” said Kate Fort, Staff Attorney and Adjunct Professor for the Indigenous Law and Policy Center at Michigan State University College of Law. “They are looking for cases of opportunity in courts across the country by inserting themselves and trying to make the same constitutional arguments against ICWA. But this lawsuit will absolutely hurt vulnerable children and families in our state child welfare systems. Their claims that ICWA’s protections are substandard is simply not true. ICWA’s standards are considered the gold standard of child welfare practice. To say these lawsuits to dismantle ICWA are in the best interest of the child is really contrary to what is considered best practices by child welfare professionals.”

Read the full article at the Indian Country Today Media Network website.

ALERT: Online Press Conference Tuesday, July 7

What:  Press conference announcing anti-ICWA lawsuit and campaign

When:  Tuesday, July 7, 2015, 9:00 a.m. Pacific time


Who:  Goldwater Institute representatives

From the press release:

Goldwater Institute to File Class Action Lawsuit Against Indian Child Welfare Act

Phoenix—Tomorrow, Tuesday, July 7, the Goldwater Institute will launch a new project to reform the Indian Child Welfare Act and similar state laws that give abused and neglected Native American children fewer rights and protections than other American children. Part of this project will be a class action lawsuit.

 “When an abused child is removed from his or her home and placed in foster care or made available for adoption, judges are required to make a decision about where the child will live based on the child’s best interest. Except for Native American children. Courts are bound by federal law to disregard a Native American child’s best interest and place the child in a home with other Native Americans, even if it is not in his or her best interest,” said Darcy Olsen, president of the Goldwater Institute. “We want federal and state laws to be changed to give abused and neglected Native American children the same protections that are given to all other American children: the right to be placed in a safe home based on their best interests, not based on their race.”

On July 7, the Goldwater Institute will file a federal class action lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of core provisions of the federal Indian Child Welfare Act. The same day, the Institute will release an investigative report that documents how federal law leaves Native American children with fewer protections under the law than all other American children, and the serious consequences that have resulted from this unequal treatment. Recommendations for changes to state and federal law will also be announced.

Read more at the Turtle Talk blog.

TRC Report Asserts Cultural Genocide Practiced in Maine

The final report of the Maine Wabanaki‑State Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was released at a closing ceremony on June 14 in Hermon. In their letter in the final report, the five commissioners… state that to improve Native child welfare, Maine and the tribes must continue to confront underlying racism still found in state institutions and the public; the ongoing impact of historical trauma on Wabanaki people; and differing interpretations of tribal sovereignty and jurisdiction that “make encounters between the tribes and the state contentious.”

Read the full article at the Quoddy Tides website.

If Truth be Told (Congress Blog)

For more than a century, the governments of Canada and the United States pursued a policy of forcible removal of indigenous children from their homes and communities.  The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada recently released a report on these removal practices, recognizing them to be part of a policy of “cultural genocide.”

On June 14 the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its own official findings on the widespread removal of Wabanaki children in that state.  This is not a story unique to Maine or Canada, nor is it a story of the past. These removals occurred throughout the United States and continue today.  According to the Maine Wabanaki TRC, indigenous children are five times more likely than non-indigenous children to be removed from their homes.  Nationally, there are similar disparities in foster care and adoption rates, leading one United Nations human rights body in 2014 to express “concern over the continued . . . removal of indigenous children through the U.S. child welfare system.”

Read the full article at The Hill website.

Native American Education Goes to Congress: 7 Bills to Watch

Congress has before it several pieces of legislation that could have major impacts on the education of American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian children.

The bills include exemption from budget cuts, Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Act, Native American Languages Reauthorization Act, Building up Unique Indian Learning, Native Hawaiian Education Reauthorization Act, Native American Indian Education Act, and American Indian Teacher Loan Forgiveness Act. Read the full article at the Indian Country Today Media Network website.

Congress Passes Two Bills to Help Protect Native Children

Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, praised the Senate’s passage of S. 184, the Native American Children’s Safety Act and S. 246, the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children Act.

Read the press release from the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

Highlights of the Native American Child Safety Act:

The legislation:

  • Applies to tribal foster care placement of Native American children for the purpose of ensuring the safety and well-being of those children

  • Requires that all prospective foster care parents and adults living in the home undergo a background check prior to the placement of a Native American foster care child

  • Requires that background checks include checking for criminal activity as well as checking child abuse and neglect registries

  • Requires that adults who join the household after the foster care child has been placed there also undergo background checks

  • Requires that foster care homes undergo recertification periodically, to ensure they remain safe for foster care children

  • The bill sets out that the Department of Interior will work with Tribes, as well as Indian Country, to establish necessary procedures to ensure that these safety standards for foster care children are established

  • The bill requires the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which currently does not conduct these background checks in every case when placing Native American foster care children in foster care homes, follow these same requirements when acting on behalf of the Tribes

Read the press release from Sen. John Hoeven.

The United States Senate unanimously passed bipartisan legislation introduced by Senator Lisa Murkowski and Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) to create a Commission on Native American Children that would efficiently combine and coordinate the federal government’s resources and expertise to best address the complicated threats and challenges facing Alaska Natives, Native Americans and Native Hawaiians.

Read the press release from Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

Also see media coverage at the Alaska Public Media website and the Durango Herald website.

War of Words: ICWA Hearings Reignite Ancient Clash Over Indian Children

Throughout the day, one after the other, witnesses on both sides had pulled back and forth in a tug-of-war regarding perhaps the most seminal issue confronting American Indian tribes in the 21st century: The right to raise their own children in their home communities.

The debates at the public hearings reopened old grievances and unhealed wounds at the core of an ongoing conflict over Indian children that has been raging for more than 500 years. Beginning with the Spaniards, who landed in the West Indies in the late 15th century, Indian tribes have been at war over possession of their children with one power after another—including the British, the French, the Dutch and the United States—ever since.

Read the full article at the Indian Country Today Media Network website

Read the related opinion from Matthew Scraper, “In Response to War of the Words: ICWA Hearings Reignite Ancient Battle Over Indian Children.”

Law Professors Submit Comment on the Proposed ICWA Regulations

These proposed regulations will provide much needed guidance and consistency in state court proceedings involving Indian children. These regulations, supported as they are by ICWA and the great weight of federal Indian law, provide balance and clarity between competing interests, and are well within the authority of the Department of the Interior to promulgate.

Read the full comment at the Turtle Talk website.

$2 million in Grants to Build Tribal Education Departments

[G]rants ranging from $25,000 to $150,000 per fiscal year are available for federally recognized tribes and their education departments. The grants are designed to help tribes assume control of Bureau of Indian Education (BIE)-funded schools in their communities, promote tribal education capacity, and provide academically rigorous and culturally appropriate education to Indian students on their reservations and trust lands.

Read the full article at the Lake County Leader website.

What’s Lurking Behind the Suicides?

They come to Pine Ridge every few years, these suicide epidemics, with varying degrees of national media attention and local soul-searching. What the news media often misses though, and what tribal members understand but rarely discuss above a whisper, is that youth suicides here are inextricably linked to a multigenerational scourge of sexual abuse, with investigations into possible abuse now open in at least two of the nine recent suicides.

Read the full opinion piece at the New York Times website.

Adoption Attorneys Submits Reply to BIA in Response to Proposed ICWA Amendments

The nation’s largest constituent group of adoption attorneys, law professors and judges submitted a 45-page response to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) concerning the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), a federal law established in 1978. The BIA announced earlier this year its attempt to amend the federal law. The AAAA’s formal response outlines a series of concerns the organization has with the BIA’s proposed amendments. The response, submitted to the U.S. Department of Interior, points out constitutional issues, as well as concerns addressing the Department’s possible violation of its statutory authority to develop such regulations.

Read the full article at the Business Wire website.

May 19 Deadline to Comment on Proposed Regulations

“The first week of hearings and consultations demonstrated a tremendous groundswell of support in Indian Country,” said Dr. Sarah Kastelic. “It’s exciting to see the momentum created by such a diverse cross section of our communities. Foster and adoptive parents, Native adoptees, foster youth, attorneys and law professors, child psychologists, families still searching for displaced relatives, and staff from state agencies all stood up to express their support for the proposed regulations. Their message is clear. Our children need these protections.”

Visit the NICWA website to see the above press release as well as the proposed regulations and resources on how to comment on them.

See related news coverage at the Native Times website and at the website.

New Report on South Dakota Corruption in Foster Care

May 13th, 2015. The Lakota People’s Law Project released a 35-page report today that reveals how private institutions and their cozy relationships with those in the highest seats of power in South Dakota are responsible for the daily violations of the Indian Child Welfare Act and the systemic human rights abuses against the Lakota population in Indian Country.

Read the full press release and download the report from the Lakota People’s Law Project website.

Investing in the Future of American Indian and Alaska Native Students

Today, the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held a hearing to discuss the educational challenges impacting American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) students and schools. The hearing entitled “Examining the Challenges Facing Native American Schools” is the first hearing exploring this topic since 2008.

Read the full press release at the Committee on Education and the Workforce (Democrats) website.

Governor Announces Planned Change for Adoption Process of Alaska Native Children

There were more than a few teary eyes in the governor’s conference room on Thursday, when Gov. Bill Walker announced plans for a significant overhaul to Alaska’s adoption process for Alaska Native children.

The move comes after a high-profile Alaska Supreme Court case added potentially impossible-to-clear hurdles to the federal Indian Child Welfare Act’s provisions that Alaska Native children be adopted to extended family or tribal members.

Read the full article at the website.

Read related coverage at the Alaska Dispatch News website on April 15, 2015, and April 16, 2015.

ICWA Discussed at Oklahoma Symposium Seminar

“With the Indian Child Welfare Act, we can look at the glass as half-empty or half-full,” said Dr. Diane Hammons, assistant professor of criminal justice at NSU. “We can say we’ve made strides and come a long way, or we can say there is still a lot of work to be done. There are a lot of judges and adoption agencies and attorneys who don’t know ICWA exists.”

Read the full article about ICWA coverage at the 43rd Symposium on the American Indian (Northeastern State University, Oklahoma) at the Tahlequah Daily Press website.

Washington Tribes Urge Restart of Background Checks in Child Placement

Washington tribes and the country’s largest group representing Native Americans are asking for state and federal help in getting background checks when a tribe needs to place a child with a foster parent in an emergency situation.

The state’s Children’s Administration, a division of the Department of Social and Health Services, had conducted the criminal background checks for the tribes for years. But Jennifer Strus, the agency’s assistant secretary, sent a letter to the tribes in June saying that service would no longer be provided effective July 1, 2014.

Read the full article at the Bellingham Herald website.

‘A Great Triumph for Our Indian Children’: Tribes Win Landmark Child Welfare Case

On Monday, March 30 a federal judge issued a landmark decision affirming that officials in South Dakota violated numerous provisions in the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and denied Indian parents their rights under the Due Process Clause of the Constitution. Referencing widespread and systemic failure to protect the integrity of Indian families, Judge Jeffrey Viken issued a partial summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs in Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Luann Van Hunnik on seven issues before the court regarding emergency removal hearings, also known as “48-hour hearings,” in Pennington County, South Dakota.

Read the full article at the Indian Country Today Media Network website.

Read an opinion piece by attorney Stephen Pevar at the ACLU website.

Read related coverage at the NPR website, the People’s World website, and

See court documents at Turtle Talk.


Nearly $2.9 Million in Head Start Funds Awarded to Tribe

The federal funding [to the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in North Dakota] will support Early Head Start and Head Start programs as the tribe works to improve its governance, children’s health and safety and provide comprehensive early education services to improve school readiness for American Indian children, according to a news release. The funds will support the programs over the course of five years.

Learn more at the Grand Forks Herald website.

Indian Country Braces for Battle With Adoption Industry Over ICWA Guidelines

“The federal government’s unwillingness to hear from those groups who have been in the field for many years working directly with those families and children who will be negatively impacted by these guidelines is alarming,” said [American Academy of Adoption Attorneys President] Goldheim. “As a nonprofit organization comprised of child welfare experts, we are committed to the ethical practice of adoption law. It is our mission to support and advocate for the rights of families and to consider the interest of all parties, especially children. Sadly, there are entire sections of the newly published BIA guidelines that completely disregard the best interest of children.”

Indian Country Today Media Network logoRead the full article at the Indian Country Today Media Network website.

Michigan Court of Appeals Reverses Adoption of Indian Child; Cites Michigan Adoptive Placement Preference Standards

The federal government and the state of Michigan show concern over potential separation of Indian children from their families and tribes through the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and the Michigan Indian Family Preservation Act (MIFPA), which include adoptive placement preference requirements for individuals seeking to adopt Indian children.

Those laws again came into play in a recent opinion of the Michigan Court of Appeals which reversed the adoption of an Indian child by a non-Indian family where an Indian family had filed a delayed petition to adopt the same child.

Read the full blog post at the website.

Heitkamp Reintroduces Bipartisan Bill to Ease Financial Costs of Adoption in Tribal Communities

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp

March 23, 2015, WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today reintroduced her bipartisan bill to ease the financial challenges of adopting children in tribal communities in North Dakota and across the country.

In all 50 states, parents who adopt children with special needs are able to claim the full adoption tax credit, helping to reduce the financial cost of adoption. However, if they open their homes to a child with special needs from Indian Country through tribal courts, that child cannot receive the same designation – preventing adoptive parents from claiming the full adoption tax credit. Heitkamp reintroduced the bipartisan Tribal Adoption Parity Act with Republican Senator James Inhofe from Oklahoma, to allow tribal governments to designate children as having special needs – just as states can – enabling adoptive parents to claim the full adoption tax credit.

Read the full press release at Senator Heitkamp’s website.

Federal Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities Holds Public Meeting on Tribal Lands in Scottsdale, AZ

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., March 26, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities (CECANF) held a public meeting on tribal lands today at the Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona.  The focus of the meeting was for Commission members to explore key issues related to addressing and preventing child abuse and neglect fatalities in Indian Country. It included presentations and discussions on the impact of growing up in the midst of multi-generational trauma and loss within native communities, jurisdictional considerations, challenges and successful strategies, data collection, best practices and effective interventions. Speakers included tribal leaders, federal agency representatives, and practitioners.

Read the full press release at the Reuters website.

Comments Sought on New BIA ICWA Rules

The Department of the Interior will be conducting tribal consultations and public meetings on the proposed rule through May 2015 to facilitate input and comment on the proposed rule. Meeting times and dates are listed below.

The proposed regulations can be found at

Comments can be submitted via any of the following methods:
• By e-mail to (please include “ICWA” in the subject line of the message),
• By postal service or hand-delivery to Ms. Elizabeth Appel, Office of Regulatory Affairs & Collaborative Action – Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street, N.W., MS-3642-MIB, Washington, D.C. 20240; Phone (202) 273-4680, or
• At

Public Meetings (open to everyone)
Wednesday, April 22, 2015  —  9 a.m. – 12 p.m.  —  Portland, Oregon
BIA Northwest Regional Office
911 NE 11th Ave Portland, OR 97232*
Thursday, April 23, 2015  —  1-4 p.m.  —  Rapid City, South Dakota
Best Western Ramkota Hotel
2111 N Lacrosse St Rapid City, SD 57701

Tuesday, May 5, 2015  —  1-4 p.m.  —  Albuquerque, New Mexico
National Indian Programs Training Center
1011 Indian School Road, NW Suite 254 Albuquerque, NM 87104*

Thursday, May 7, 2015  —  1-4 p.m.  —  Prior Lake, Minnesota
Mystic Lake Casino Hotel
2400 Mystic Lake Blvd Prior Lake, MN 55372

Tuesday, May 12, 2015  —  1 p.m.-4 p.m. Eastern Time
Via teleconference
Passcode: INTERIOR

Thursday, May 14, 2015  —  1-4 p.m.  —  Tulsa, Oklahoma
Tulsa Marriott Southern Hills
1902 East 71st Tulsa, OK 74136
Tribal Consultation Sessions
Tribal consultation sessions are for representatives of current federally recognized tribes only, to discuss the rule on a government-to-government basis with the Department. These sessions may be closed to the public.

Monday, April 20, 2015 —  3:30-5:30 p.m. — Portland, Oregon
Hilton Portland & Executive Towers
921 SW Sixth Avenue Portland, OR 97204
(at the same location as NICWA conference)

Thursday, April 23, 2015  —  9 a.m.-12 p.m.  —  Rapid City, South Dakota
Best Western Ramkota Hotel
2111 N Lacrosse St Rapid City, SD 57701

Tuesday, May 5, 2015  —  9 a.m.-12 p.m.  —  Albuquerque, New Mexico
National Indian Programs Training Center
1011 Indian School Road, NW Suite 254

[*Please RSVP for the Portland and Albuquerque meetings via As these are federal buildings, bring photo identification and arrive early to allow for time to get through security. No RSVP is necessary for the other locations.]

View the full press release at the Bureau of Indian Affairs website.

Foster-Care Plan for Tribes Filled with Problems

When the federal government opened foster-care assistance to Native American tribes in 2008, more than 80 expressed interest in the program.

By 2014, however, just 27 tribes had applied and only five had been approved for the federal program, their efforts hobbled by a lack of resources, inflexibility by federal bureaucrats and cultural insensitivity, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

Read the full report at the Arizona Daily Star website.

Alaska Requests More Time to Consider Position in ICWA Dispute

“The state has requested an additional 30-day extension because the administration needs additional time to determine its response to the issues raised in the petition and the amicus brief,” Jacqueline Schaffer, an assistant attorney general with the Alaska Department of Law, told KNBA.

Read the March 18 article at the website.

Related links:

March 18, 2015. “State Upholds Decision in Case of Native Child Adoption.” at the Newsminer website.

March 11, 2015. “Native Nonprofits Want State to Change on Adoption Case.” at the Alaska Public Media website.

March 9, 2015: “Alaska tribes want state to join rehearing request in ICWA case” at the website.


Native Sun News: Lakota Children in ‘Imminent Danger’ in State

The class action lawsuit, which involves the first 48 hours after an Indian child is taken from his or her family, alleges the State of South Dakota regularly violates the Constitutional Rights of Indian parents and provision 1922 of the Indian Child Welfare Act during the “show cause” hearing. The case, OST et. al vs Van Hunnik et. al., being heard in the Federal Courthouse in Rapid City before Chief U.S. District Judge Jeffery Viken, was filed two years ago by ACLU attorneys Dana Hanna and Stephen Pevar on behalf of the Oglala and Rosebud Sioux Tribes and all Indian parents in Pennington County against the Department of Social Services, Judge Jeff Davis and the States Attorney Mark Vargo. Last week attorneys argued on the scope of judicial privilege when it comes to conversations Davis had with other judges and his staff. Plaintiffs have asked for “discovery” of those conversations.

Read the full article at the website.

USDA Launches Initiative to Develop New Solutions to End Child Hunger

In a speech at the 2015 National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference today about the extent of childhood hunger in America and the impact of USDA programs on reducing food insecurity, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced more than $27 million in grants to fund innovative projects designed help end childhood hunger. The announcement was part of USDA efforts during National Nutrition Month to focus on poverty and food insecurity among children, especially in rural areas. These projects will be tested in Kentucky, Nevada, and Virginia, as well as the Chickasaw and Navajo tribal nations.

Read the full news release at the USDA website.

Tribes asking federal court to force judge to disclose communications

Chief U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Viken delayed a ruling on whether … 7th Circuit Judge Jeff Davis, of Rapid City, would have to turn over records of his discussions with other 7th Circuit judges…. Viken’s ultimate decision may be a key ruling in the 2-year-old lawsuit brought by the Oglala Sioux and Rosebud Sioux tribes and Native American parents against Davis, the South Dakota Department of Social Services officials and Pennington County State’s Attorney Mark Vargo.

Read the full article at the Rapid City Journal website.

NICWA webinar on new ICWA guidelines: Friday, March 13

A major development in tribal child welfare policy was announced on February 25, 2015. The Bureau of Indian Affairs announced that it had revised–effective immediately–the Guidelines for State Courts and Agencies in Indian Child Custody Proceedings for the first time since 1979. NICWA is hosting a free webinar on Friday, March 13, 2015, at 10 a.m. PDT to explain the revisions.  

Latest NICWA Pathways Practice Digest Highlights Tribal-State Collaboration

Since the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) in 1978, there has been increasing movement to enhance state policy to support ICWA and address several of the challenges to American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) children’s well-being. The efforts that have proven most successful have been initiated by tribal governments and AI/AN Indian organizations in collaboration with state governments. After providing some history on ICWA and the problem of noncompliance, this article describes specific examples of promising developments in the area of tribal-state collaboration. Through enhanced partnership, tribes and states can work together to not only address the pervasive problem of ICWA noncompliance, but also work toward strengthening other programs and policies.

NICWA logoRead the full article at the NICWA website.

BIA Releases New ICWA Guidelines to Protect Native Families and Children

The updated guidelines, said Washburn, will provide much-needed clarity and comprehensive direction in for [sic] determining whether a child is an Indian child, identifying the child’s tribe, and notifying its parent and tribe as early as possible before determining placement. Further, they will provide clear instruction on the application of “active efforts” to prevent the breakup of the Indian family and provisions which carry the presumption that ICWA’s placement preferences are in the best interests of Indian children.

Indian Country Today Media Network logoRead the full article at the Indian Country Today Media Network website.

Read related Indian Country Today article, Cherokee Nation Applauds BIA’s Indian Child Welfare Act Guideline Revision.

Sarah Kastelic Named New Executive Director Of National Indian Child Welfare Association

The National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) Board of Directors welcomed Sarah Kastelic as new executive director of the organization this week. Dr. Kastelic has served NICWA as both chief of staff and deputy director for the past four years. She assumes the role as part of a carefully designed succession and leadership transition plan. Dr. Kastelic replaces founding director Terry Cross, who now becomes a NICWA senior consultant and will continue to serve the organization.

Read the full news release at the PR Newswire website.

Child Welfare System Accused of Repeating Residential School History (Canada)

Today, after the public apologies and restitution over the government’s residential school system, disproportionately high rates of aboriginal child apprehensions continue across Canada.

“There are more First Nation children in care today than during the height of residential schools,” said Shawn Atleo, former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. “We cannot lose another generation to the mistakes of the past. First Nations are the youngest and fastest growing segment of the population. We are the future. This is about Canada’s future.”

Read the full article at the National Post website.

Study Outlines How Poverty, Schools, and Absenteeism Affect Oregon’s Tribal Students

“The Condition of Education for Members of Oregon’s Indian Tribes” was a study completed by ECONorthwest and the Chalkboard Project. The Spirit Mountain Community Fund paid for the study, which looked at students enrolled in seven of Oregon’s federally recognized tribes, including the Klamath Tribes.

Read more about the report at the Herald and News website.

Read the report at The Chalkboard Project website.

Native Youth Education in State of Emergency

From kindergarten retention to high school graduation rates, education data show that American Indian and Alaskan Native students are faring the worst of all U.S. ethnic groups, according to a new White House report on Native youth.

Read the full article at the EdSource website.

Michigan Court of Appeals Reverses Termination of Parental Rights; Cites Indian Child Welfare Act Standard

In any child custody proceeding involving Indian children, all parties should understand there are significant legal and procedural requirements that must be met before parental rights to Indian children may be terminated. The federal government and the State of Michigan show concern over potential separation of Indian children from their families and tribes through the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and the Michigan Indian Family Preservation Act (MIFPA), which require a heightened evidentiary standard. This heightened evidentiary standard is supplemented by additional procedural requirements contained in the Michigan Court Rules.

See the full post at the JDSupra website.

Feds Pledge to Help Tribes with Enforcement of Indian Child Welfare Act

At the conclusion of the White House Tribal Nations Conference in Washington, D.C. this month, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder briefly outlined the plan to require more compliance with ICWA.

“This federal initiative represents a long overdue recognition by the Department of Justice that, 38 years after Indian Child Welfare Act was enacted into law, the illegal and unnecessary removal of Indian children from their families continues,” said A. Gay Kingman, executive director of the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association in Rapid City.

Read the full article at the Rapid City Journal website.

See related coverage at the NPR website.

See the ICWA INFO post with the full-text of Holder’s remarks.

33rd Annual Protecting Our Children National American Indian Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect April 19-22, 2015 | Portland, Oregon

Each year, the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) hosts the largest national gathering on American Indian and Alaska Native child advocacy issues. With over 800 attendees, this three-day conference attracts attention across North America, creating a space where participants can learn about the latest information across Indian Country in child welfare.

NICWA logoLearn more and register at the NICWA website.

Child Welfare In Indian Country: A Story Of Painful Removals by Terry Cross

The removal of indigenous children from their cultures by colonial governments is recognized by the United Nations as a form of cultural genocide. The trauma is recognized, pervasive, and long term. Yet the practice continues in the United States despite federal laws designed to end it. It would seem that the routine removal of Native children from their families and culture has been, and is, part of the American culture. The intent to protect Indian children, to give them a better life (understood in this context as “a white life”), is offered in the spirit of Colonel Richard Henry Pratt—chief architect of the Indian boarding school system—whose motto was, “Kill the Indian, save the man.”

Read the full article at the Health Affairs website.

Indian Country Today Coverage of “Native Village of Tununak v. The State of Alaska”

Elise wanted her granddaughter, but after nearly six years in court fighting to assert her rights under federal law, time was not on her side. The Inupiaq elder, who has eight children and 26 grandchildren, had steadfastly refused to give up on a child whom she felt needed—and deserved—to be raised by her own family in Tununak, a Yup’ik village on the westernmost edge of the American continent.

Read the October 28 article about Elise’s struggle at the Indian Country Today Media Network website.

Though many points of the case are in dispute (if they were not, there would be not disagreement), in the interest of clarity and to offer our readers the state’s position as accurately as possible, we present here the unvarnished bulk of the rebuttal.

Read the December 4 follow-up article with the state’s rebuttal at the Indian Country Today Media Network website.

Attorney General Eric Holder Delivers Remarks During the White House Tribal Nations Conference

During his remarks on December 3, 2014, Attorney General Eric Holder announced a new initiative to promote compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act :

Under this important effort, we are working to actively identify state-court cases where the United States can file briefs opposing the unnecessary and illegal removal of Indian children from their families and their tribal communities.  We are partnering with the Departments of the Interior and Health and Human Services to make sure that all the tools available to the federal government are used to promote compliance with this important law.  And we will join with those departments, and with tribes and Indian child-welfare organizations across the country, to explore training for state judges and agencies; to promote tribes’ authority to make placement decisions affecting tribal children; to gather information about where the Indian Child Welfare Act is being systematically violated; and to take appropriate, targeted action to ensure that the next generation of great tribal leaders can grow up in homes that are not only safe and loving, but also suffused with the proud traditions of Indian cultures.

Read Attorney General Eric Holder’s full remarks at the Department of Justice website.

From Broken Homes to a Broken System (Washington Post)

Around the country, juveniles on reservations are left to languish in cash-strapped facilities that cannot afford to provide the kind of rehabilitative services afforded to most young offenders in the United States. Because some reservations have no juvenile detention centers, offenders often are shipped to facilities far from their homes, compounding the isolation of incarceration.

Read more at the Washington Post website.

Tribal Program Spotlight: The Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan Head Start Center

Toward that end, the LTBB Head Start Center employs a language teacher to teach children and staff their Native language of Anishinaabemowin.  Sometimes the kids are so excited that they go home and teach their parents, a practice that has resulted in the center receiving calls from parents inquiring about the meaning of common words.

In addition, each year LTTB Head Start plans a trip to the tribal government building where the children sing to the elders. Tribal ceremonies are also held and traditional holidays are observed with families and the community.  Parents, elders and Head Start staff have even made traditional regalia for each child to use during pow-wows and the local parade that celebrates tribal sovereignty.

Child Care and Development Block Grant Act is Signed into Law

Ensuring access to safe, good and affordable child care is crucial for helping to lift low-income parents out of poverty and build futures for their children. The child care bill signed on Wednesday by President Obama is a bipartisan step in the right direction, and it holds promise for further progress.

Read the full article at the New York Times website.

Read Senator Murkowski’s press release about the amendments she introduced to address the needs of tribal child care providers.

Read Senator Hirono’s press release about the affect of the legislation on Native Hawaiian children.



Native American Kids Need More Protection, Advisory Panel Tells Holder

A panel of Indian-country experts will recommend to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Tuesday that tribes be allowed to criminally prosecute non-Indians who sexually or physically abuse Native American children on tribal land, saying that juveniles on reservations are living with “dire” levels of violence and poverty.

Read the full article at the Washington Post website.

Read the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence 120-page report on the Washington Post website.

CMS Awards $3.9 Million to Improve Access to Health Care

Nov. 12, 2014 – The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) today awarded $3.9 million for outreach and enrollment efforts aimed at American Indian and Alaska Native children eligible for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The grant awards will fund activities to engage schools and tribal agencies in Medicaid and CHIP outreach and enrollment activities.

See the full press release at the CMS website.

Tribal, State, and Federal Courts Met to Expand Collaboration on Child Welfare Issues (Michigan)

The Michigan Tribal State Federal Judicial Forum convened October 27-28 in Petoskey to review and adopt its charter and address the importance of judicial leadership in child welfare issues. The Forum was created by Michigan Supreme Court Administrative Order in June and is the first entity of its kind to meet since the previous Tribal State Court Forum was created in 1992.

Read more at the Flint Genesee County Legal News website.

Collaboration a common concern of child welfare conference speakers (Nebraska)

An article describing a recent social welfare conference at Chadron State College includes some ICWA references:

During a panel discussion following the keynote, William Cross of Gordon, Nebraska, social worker with the ICWA ONTRAC office in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, challenged the Oglala Sioux tribe and CSC to collaborate more often to support Native American children. 

Read the full article at the Chadron State College website.

Inaugural Tribal-State Court Forum Addresses Child Welfare Issues

The Michigan Tribal State Federal Judicial Forum, which was created this year and held its first meeting in Petoskey this week, provides an ongoing venue for all three jurisdictions to convene and improve working relations and communications. A priority for the Forum is addressing child welfare issues, and ensuring that our courts systems are meeting the needs of Native children and families in a way that’s culturally sensitive and appropriate in accordance with the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA).

Read the full column by Justice Michael Cavanagh at the MLive Media Group website.

First Educare Serving Native Children and Families Opens in Nebraska

On October 17, 2014, the Winnebago community celebrated the grand opening of Educare Winnebago, a new state-of-the-art early childhood education school that ultimately will serve 191 children on the Winnebago Indian Reservation in northeastern Nebraska. The school is the first Educare in a Native American community, the fourth Educare in Nebraska and the 20th Educare in the country.

Read the full article at the Indian Country Today Media Network website.

Indian Schools Face Disrepair, Poverty

The 183 schools are spread across 23 states and fall under the jurisdiction of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Education. The schools serve about 48,000 children, or about 7 percent of Native-American students, and are among the country’s lowest performing.

They are in some of the most out-of-the-way places in the country; one is at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, reachable by donkey or helicopter. Most are small, with fewer than 150 students.

Read the full article at the Seattle Times website.

Children’s Bureau Express Spotlight on Tribal Child Welfare

Native American children are disproportionally represented in child welfare. Efforts to effect change must be culturally competent and protect the best interests of Indian children and strengthen Native families. This month, we look at cultural adaptations of trauma treatments, research on the use of social services by urban American Indian families, and a guide to help CASAs [court appointed special advocates] advocate for Native children.

cbxSee the October 2014 issue  at the Children’s Bureau Express website.

Alaska Supreme Court: Native Child can be Adopted by Non-Native Family


In a split decision, the Alaska Supreme Court has ruled against the village of Tununak, which was appealing a lower court’s decision that allowed an Alaska Native infant to be adopted by non-Native parents rather than giving custody to her extended biological family in the tiny Western Alaska community.

The Supreme Court’s ruling this month upholds an earlier Superior Court ruling that concerns about the baby girl’s well-being trumped legal preferences built into a federal law designed to keep children from being adopted away from their Native American communities when possible.

Citing a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on a similar case, three of the Alaska Supreme Court justices said the lower court was correct in letting a non-Native couple in Anchorage adopt the girl, because an approved member of her biological family had not officially filed to adopt her. Two of the justices disagreed, saying that was not enough reason to override the Native preference.

Read more of the article at the News Miner website and a related article at the Reuters website.
Read a copy of the court decision at the National Indian Law Library website and copy of the briefs files in the case at the Turtle Talk blog.

Alaska Supreme Court’s latest ICWA Decision is a Blow to Alaska Native Family Rights

On September 12, 2014, the Alaska Supreme Court issued a decision that will effectively bar most Alaska Native families from asserting their rights under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and in doing so will increase the number of Native children severed from their families and culture.

In the Native Village of Tununak II v. the State of Alaska, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that in order to be considered as an adoptive placement option for children in State custody, family members and other Native families must file formal adoption petitions in State Superior Court. The Alaska Supreme Court held that the United States Supreme Court’s decision last year in the Baby Veronica case required this new rule.

Read the full press release at the Tanana Chiefs Conference website.

See related press release at the National Indian Child Welfare Association website.

Crisis of Native American children spurs summit (Minnesota)

State, county, and tribal leaders from Minnesota gathered at Fortune Bay Resort Casino on Thursday [Sept. 25] to talk about what they are calling a crisis of Indian children.


Native Americans account for one percent of Minnesota’s population. However, Native American children are four times more likely to live in poverty than the state’s white children, and one and seven are placed in foster care, according to tribal leaders.

Read more at the Northland News Center website and a related article at the Grand Rapids Herald website.

Senate Passes Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act

Orrin Hatch[September 19, 2014] Last night, the U.S. Senate passed the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act, bipartisan child welfare legislation aimed at reducing child sex trafficking, increasing adoptions and improving child support collections.  The bill includes a number of proposals from legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) last September (S. 1518, the Improving Outcomes for Youth at Risk for Sex Trafficking Act, I O Youth).  After passing the Senate last night and the House of Representatives in June, the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act will be sent to President Obama to be signed into law.

Read more at Senator Hatch’s website.

Indian Child Welfare Act Online Training Course (NICWA)

Increase the depth of your understanding of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. Take the National Indian Child Welfare Association’s online ICWA training course at your own pace. The provisions of ICWA are explained in non-legal language and presented in the order in which a child welfare worker might encounter them in an ICWA case.

Geared toward those who work in, or study, the out-of-home placement of Indian children, the course will resonate with social workers, tribal social service agency directors and boards, state and county social workers and supervisors, training personnel, professors, and students.

  • Learn what led to ICWA’s enactment and be equipped to explain ICWA to those unfamiliar with its purpose
  • Be confident in knowing principles of good social work, including how handle a case involving an Indian child in compliance with ICWA
  • Acquire the information needed to handle the out-of-home placement of an Indian child
  • Identify cultural factors to consider when handling cases involving Indian children and families
  • Upon successful completion of the course earn a certification of completion

NICWA logoLearn more and register at the National Indian Child Welfare Association website.

Online ICWA Resources for Michigan Judges

Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978: A Court Resource Guide
This court resource guide was written by a special committee formed by the Michigan Supreme Court to help Michigan judges learn about the federal Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, the need for states to comply with the Act, and discuss its implementation in Michigan.
ICWA Special Committee
State Court Administrative Office
July, 2012

Chapter 11: Adoption Proceedings Involving an Indian Child in Adoption Proceedings Benchbook – Revised Edition
Michigan Judicial Institute, 2014



Tribal Leaders Summit Panel Talks Child Welfare

BISMARCK, N.D. — A panel at the Tribal Leaders Summit on Thursday addressed problems facing the implementation of the Indian Child Welfare Act.

The consensus among the panelists is that the obstacle facing implementation of child welfare programs on reservations is lack of funding.

Read the full article at the Bismarck Tribune website.

Federal Officials Say Native American School in Minnesota Needs Help

Federal officials got a firsthand look at one deteriorating Native American school in Minnesota Tuesday–they said it’s one of many suffering similarly throughout the country.

After touring Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School in Bena, Minnesota, Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell said it’s just one example of how the country is letting down it’s Native American students.

Read the full article and watch the video at the WDIO website.

Lac du Flambeau Families Benefit from Foster Care Changes

flambeau_logoLac du Flambeau hopes to provide more support for families and kids in its foster care system. The state of Wisconsin has signed an agreement allowing the tribe to access a new stream of federal funding. The Title IV-E program is the federal government’s foster care program.  Until recently, funds from that program have gone to the state of Wisconsin and its counties, but have never been funneled to the tribes. That’s changing, now that officials have signed an agreement allowing that money to flow directly to the tribe’s foster care administration.

Read the full article at the WSAU website.

Judge Accepts Feds’ Comments on Indian Child Welfare Case (South Dakota)

August 18, 2014. In what is being called a rare move, the Department of Justice last week threw its support behind two South Dakota tribes and two Native American mothers that have accused state officials of violating the Indian Child Welfare Act by taking custody of their children for 60 days after only a brief hearing.

Read the full article at the Rapid City Journal website.

Listen to related coverage at the South Dakota Public Broadcasting website.

House Passes Bill To Prevent Sex Trafficking, Strengthen Vulnerable Children and Families

On Wednesday, July 23, 2014, the House of Representatives unanimously approved H.R. 4980, the “Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act.” This bipartisan, bicameral bill reflects agreements reached between House and Senate leaders on three separate bills designed to prevent sex trafficking of children in foster care, increase adoptions from foster care, and increase child support collections for families, among other purposes.

House Committee on Ways and Means sealRead the full press release at Chairman Dave Camp’s website.

Why Are These Indian Children Being Torn Away From Their Homes?

Imagine entering family court and knowing that what’s at stake is the person you hold most dear – your child. Now imagine having a judge tell you that he’s removing your child from your custody, from your home. When you ask him why, the judge’s replies, “I honestly can’t tell you.” The judge then signs an order giving custody of your son to Social Services.

You might think that such a court proceeding could never happen in the United States – but you’d be wrong.

Read the full article by Stephen Pevar at the ACLU website.

Alaska Supreme Court sides with Interior tribe in child custody, sovereignty case

The Alaska Supreme Court ruled Friday in support of an Interior tribal court in a child custody and tribal sovereignty case that was contested by Gov. Sean Parnell’s administration.

The case, Simmonds v. Parks, started almost six years ago as a custody dispute in the Village of Minto, a town of 200 people about 130 road miles northwest of Fairbanks.

Native American Rights Fund logoRead the full article at the website.

Learn more about the case at the Native American Rights Fund website.

Abuse and Neglect: The Toxic Lives of Drug Endangered Children

[Vice-president of the National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children, Lori] Moriarty spoke to a gathering of about 150 tribal officials, law enforcement officers, educators, attorneys and victims’ advocates on developing a successful collaborative response to drug endangered children at the 2014 Indian Country Conference, July 16-17 at Prairie Band Casino and Resort in Mayetta, Kansas. “I’m going to tell you today,” Moriarty said, “children plus drugs equals risk.”

Moriarty said one of the biggest challenges of substance abuse and drug endangered children has been competing goals between law enforcement and child welfare advocates. While the goal for child welfare advocates may be family reunification, law enforcement’s primary focus has been arrests and seizures. “Why are we not looking for the kids?”

Read more about the presentation at the Indian Country Today Media Network website.

logo - National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children

Legislation Introduced to Help Adoptive Parents in Indian Country Receive Adoption Tax Credit

July 9, 2014

U.S. Senators Tim Johnson (D-SD), James Inhofe (R-OK), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) today introduced the Tribal Adoption Parity Act. The legislation ensures parents adopting American Indian and Alaskan Native children through tribal courts are treated fairly under our nation’s tax code by making it easier for adoptive parents across Indian Country to claim the full adoption tax credit for “special needs” children.

Read more from the press release available at Senator Johnson’s official website.

Read media coverage at the Indian Country Today Media Network website.

Leaders Convene to Improve Life for Spirit Lake’s Sacred Children

Spirit Lake Tribe logoThis week 26 key decision-makers from the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe, federal and state governments, as well as local and national private organizations met to kick off a comprehensive strategy called the “Spirit Lake Child Welfare Improvement Project.” The purpose of this gathering was to convene decision-makers to craft a vision and an initial plan for the improvement of the child welfare system at Spirit Lake.

Read the full article at the Indian Country Today Media Network website.

Update: Sioux Mother Jailed for Rescuing Her Abused Sons; Tribe Steps Up

The past 11 months have been long, hard months for a Rosebud Sioux mother named Audre’y Eby. Last August, she picked up her twin 16-year-old sons from her ex-husband’s Iowa residence to bring them to visit her home in western Nebraska, and she discovered that the special-needs boys — one is blind and autistic, and the other has cerebral palsy — had been abused.

Caught between the laws of two states, Eby appeared in Iowa’s Plymouth District Court before Judge Steven Andreason this past May, under threats of criminal prosecution for kidnapping in Iowa and being reported for child endangerment in Nebraska. Her ex-husband’s attorneys, she said, demanded that she immediately return the boys.

Read the full article at the Indian Country Today Media Network website.

January 6, 2014:

After Eby and the boys’ biological father separated in 2003, when the boys were six, she cared for them. When they turned 12, she thought they should get to know their father. “At the time it seemed like a reasonable idea,” Eby recalled. As the problems in the father’s home mounted, she fought to get the boys back, succeeding briefly in 2011. Through all the abuse and neglect findings, Iowa DHS documents reveal, the agency’s goal has generally been to reunite the twins with their father, and the courts have concurred.

Read the full article at the Indian Country Today Media Network website.

S.D. tribes look to establish foster care services on reservations

Five South Dakota tribes have asked the federal government for financial assistance to help operate their own foster care services.

The Standing Rock, Cheyenne River, Yankton, Oglala and Crow Creek Sioux tribes submitted applications Monday seeking federal planning dollars to develop and operate their own programs.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe received one of the $300,000 grants last fall and is among the first tribes in the nation to do so.

Read the full article at the Argus Leader website.

NSU gets $735,000 from National Child Welfare Workforce Institute

Northeastern State University is one of 11 universities nationwide to receive five-year funding of $735,000 through the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute, a service of the U.S. Children’s Bureau, a media release states.

NSU’s Department of Social Work and the Cherokee Nation Indian Child Welfare entered into a formal partnership that will assist in building a more effective and efficient bridge between both institutions that will support and enhance Cherokee Nation tribal child welfare services. This collaboration will include ongoing workforce training as well as a workforce entry and retention plan.

Read the full article at the Muskogee Phoenix website.

Navajo Nation Makes Historic Agreement With DHHS to Handle its Tribal Foster Care

On Friday, June 27, the Navajo Nation made an historic pact with the U.S. Department of of Health and Human Services to execute a direct funding agreement through the Title IV-E program under the Social Security Act that will reimburse the tribe and its child welfare agencies for federally eligible foster care, adoptions and guardianships.

Read the full article at the Indian Country Today Media Network website.

As Child Abuse Persists at Spirit Lake, Congress Steps In

A congressional committee has begun investigating why child abuse and neglect persists on North Dakota’s Spirit Lake reservation, almost two years after the federal government stepped in to address the problem.

At a hearing on Tuesday, tribal leaders and officials from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Department of Health and Human Services are expected to be asked about ongoing allegations of abuse and neglect on the reservation, and the lack of visible progress in correcting the problems.

“Clearly the current system is failing our children,” Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said in a statement. “The goal of this hearing is to shine a light on the situation and promote a dialogue about solutions.”

Read the full story at the PBS FRONTLINE website.

Seminole Tribe of Florida Looking for a Superintendent of Education (6/2/2014)

The Seminole Tribe of Florida is currently accepting applications for a Superintendent of Education.

The person in this position will be responsible for the overall leadership, development, organization, management, operation, and implementation of Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Educational programs across departments including the Ahfachkee School, Ahfachkee Traditional Preservation, Pemayetv Emakakv Charter School, Brighton Charter Cultural Program, and the Preschool Program.

Read a full job description at Indian Country Today Media Network website and apply at the tribe’s website.  (Job was posted 6/2/2014.)

The Quiet Crisis in Native American Juvenile Justice

Statistics highlight the magnitude of the problem. Although they represent 1% of the U.S. population, Native American juveniles represent 2% to 3% of youth arrests in categories such as theft and alcohol possession. Similarly, they are committed to adult incarceration at a rate 1.84 times that of whites and are placed under the jurisdiction of the criminal justice system at a rate 2.4 times that of whites. In four states with substantial Native American populations, they represent from 29% to 42% of juveniles held in secure confinement.

Read the full article by Robert Winters, JD, Professor, School of Criminal Justice, Kaplan University, at the website.

See related news story from the ICWA INFO website.

Strengthening Tribal Communities through Education and Economic Development: Reforms to the Bureau of Indian Education

President Obama shaking child's hand at pow-wow
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

In the wake of Friday’s visit by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, the White House released an action plan to help strengthen and sustain at least two of Obama’s biggest initiatives in Indian country: Education and Economic Development.

Acknowledging the “crisis” in Indian education, including low educational attainment rates of Native high school students and the even lower number of college graduates in Indian country, the departments of Interior and Indian Education released a “Blueprint for Reform,” a comprehensive plan “to redesign the [Bureau of Indian Education] BIE to achieve one overarching goal: for tribes to deliver a world-class education to all students attending BIE schools,” according the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Read more at the Indian Country Today Media Network website.

Read the FACT SHEET: Strengthening Tribal Communities through Education and Economic Development at the White House website.

Read the press release from Secretary Jewell at the Department of Interior website.

Read related articles at Education Week, part one, and part two as well as the MSNBC website.

Cramer Announces June 24, 2014, House Hearing on Spirit Lake Child Welfare

On Tuesday, June 24th, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs will hold an oversight hearing entitled “Child Protection & the Justice System on the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation.” This hearing will assess whether Congressional action is needed to address systematic problems with the child welfare and justice system on the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation in North Dakota.

Find the official hearing notice and the related press release from Representative Kevin Cramer’s website.

Advisory Committee on Native Children Exposed to Violence Holds Final Hearing

ANCHORAGE, Alaska –The Advisory Committee of the Attorney General’s Task Force on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence convenes its final public hearing in Anchorage, Alaska, today. The hearing, which commenced June 11, will examine the wide-ranging impact of violence on children in Alaska Native communities and consider programs to effectively support these children and promote healing.

Read more at the Indian Country Today Media Network website.Indian Country Today Media Network logo

ICWA Training Opportunity (Oregon, 6/25/2014)

Columbia Gorge CASA, in partnership with the Oregon Department of Human Services, is hosting a community training about ICWA June 25, from 2 to 4:30 p.m. at Water’s Edge in The Dalles. Participants will learn about the history of ICWA; Oregon tribes and culture; and the legal parameters and application of ICWA within the child welfare system.

The training is intended for CASA volunteers, DHS case workers, judges, attorneys, district attorneys, juvenile department staff, and others involved in the child welfare system.

Learn more about the event from the Dalles Chronicle website and download the event flyer from the Columbia Gorge CASA website.

NICWA Deputy Director Sarah Kastelic Named 2014 American Express NGen Leadership Award Recipient

(Portland, Ore., June 10, 2014)—National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) Deputy Director Sarah Kastelic, Ph.D., was named the 2014 recipient of the Independent Sector American Express NGen Leadership Award today. In announcing the award, Independent Sector cited Kastelic’s role as “a transformational leader working to further policy research that empowers American Indian and Alaska Native communities to prevent and respond to child abuse and neglect.”

Read more from the NICWA press release.

Webinar: Enhancing Basic Skills for Tribal Child Welfare Workers

NICWA just announced a new webinar to be held in July, Enhancing Basic Skills for Tribal Child Welfare Workers:

New to tribal child welfare? Want to brush up on your tribal child welfare skills? Want to know if your program is following best practices in tribal child welfare?

This webinar series is geared toward tribal child welfare workers who want to improve on their basic skills. It will strengthen your ability to work with children and families and improve caseload management.

When: Tuesdays, July 15–August 12, 2014 (9:00 a.m. –10:30 a.m. Pacific time)

nicwa_logoFind more info and register at the NICWA website.

Nonprofit Will Oversee Community Programs at Laguna Pueblo

Pueblo of Laguna, New MexicoLaguna Pueblo’s community programs, ranging from early childhood programs to assistance to military veterans, are now under the umbrella of the newly created Laguna Community Foundation, a nonprofit that will oversee their funding and provide needed guidance.

“We decided to bring all of our programs under one entity rather than have them split up,” said foundation Executive Director Gilbert Sanchez. “This will help the pueblo align those programs, and so far, it’s working pretty good.”

Read more about the new program at the Albuquerque Journal website.

A Roadmap for Collaborative and Effective Evaluation in Tribal Communities (Children’s Bureau)

From the Children’s Bureau website:

Throughout history, many American Indian and Alaska Native communities have experienced intrusive research and judgmental evaluations that have caused harm. As a result, many fears about evaluation persist. Based on the efforts of a Children’s Bureau-sponsored workgroup of experts, this video introduces a vision for the future of Tribal child welfare evaluation and a guide for developing culturally and scientifically rigorous evaluation.

Learn more and watch an informational video at the Children’s Bureau website and download the publication, A Roadmap for Collaborative and Effective Evaluation in Tribal Communities.

Logo for Children's Bureau

Senate Committee Passes Bipartisan Bill to Stand Up for Native American Children

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp

May 21, 2014:

During a Senate Committee vote today, U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp’s bipartisan bill to create a Commission on Native Children overwhelmingly passed – the final step before the bill goes to the full Senate.

Since the bill was introduced a few months ago, Heitkamp has worked to build strong support for it. The bill now has 27 cosponsors, bringing together conservative, moderate, and liberal Senators looking to stand up for Native children and make sure they have every opportunity to succeed. In October, Heitkamp introduced the bill with Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, and today it passed in the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

Specifically, the bill would improve the lives of Native American children by examining and addressing high poverty rates, unemployment, child abuse, domestic violence, substance abuse, and few economic opportunities – and make tangible recommendations on how to make sure they are protected and supported.

Read the full press release and watch a video of the Senator’s statement at Senator Heitkamp’s website.

Read a June 21 letter in support of the bill from Senators Heidi Heitkamp and Lisa Murkowski at the Grand Forks Herald website.

Letter from Chase Iron Eyes: S.D. Foster Facilities are the New Indian Boarding Schools

The state of South Dakota has forcibly removed our Lakota children from their tribes for 150 years. The Indian Child Welfare Act continues to be violated daily. Lakota leaders agree on the best permanent solution to this crisis: a Lakota-run foster care and family service system. I am writing here today to urgently request that you watch our new video and support us in our campaign to bring the Lakota children home.

See the letter from Chase Iron Eyes and a fundraising video at the Daily Kos website.

Lakota People Law Project logo

Available Grants Focused on Increasing Health Insurance Enrollment of American Indian/Alaska Native Children

A total of $4 million is available for grants to eligible entities, including the Indian Health Service (IHS), Tribes and Tribal organizations operating health programs under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDEAA) (P.L. 93-638, as amended), and Urban Indian organizations operating health programs under title V of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA) (P.L. 94-437, as amended.) Coalitions headed by eligible entities may also receive grants. These grants will support outreach strategies aimed at increasing enrollment of eligible AI/AN children in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), emphasizing activities tailored to communities where AI/AN children and families reside and enlisting community leaders and programs that serve eligible children and families. These grants also will fund activities designed to help families understand new application procedures and health coverage opportunities, including Medicaid, CHIP and coverage through the health insurance marketplace.

Department of Health and Human Services logoClosing Date for Applications: Jun 30, 2014

Learn more about this funding opportunity at the website.

Recent Infant Death on Spirit Lake Reservation – FBI Investigation and Call for Legislation

At a hearing of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee this week, Senator John Hoeven pressed Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn to do everything in the agency’s power to get to the bottom the recent death of an infant on Spirit Lake reservation.

Read more about the hearing at Senator Hoeven’s website.

Read more about the death at the WDAZ 8 (ABC) website and at the Bismark Tribune website.

Tribal Foster, Adoptive Family Recruitment Event (Oklahoma)

The Osage Nation Social Services and Delaware Tribe ICW will host the 2014 Tribal Foster and Adoptive Family Recruitment Fair from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 3 at the Delaware Community Center, located at 170 NE Barbara in Bartlesville.

Fourteen tribes, two Department of Human Services offices and two DHS vendors will be on hand to take applications, answer questions and share program information on becoming a certified and licensed tribal foster or adoptive home.

Miami Appeals Court Rules Custody Battle Should Stay in State Court

A Miami appeals court says a custody dispute between a Miccosukee mother and non-Indian father should remain in state court, not tribal court.

The decision Wednesday by the Third District Court of Appeal marks the first time a Florida appeals court has agreed to strip the authority of tribal court judges in a child custody case.

Read the full article at the Miami Herald website.

Read other articles about this news at:

Susan R. Brown’s law website

and the Justice News Flash website.

Job Announcement: Senior Director of Indian Child Welfare Consulting

Casey Family Programs - Indian Child Welfare ProgramsCasey Family Programs has posted the position of Senior Director Indian Child Welfare. Learn more and apply at

Casey Family Programs, an Equal Opportunity Employer, is a national operating foundation that provides and improves – and ultimately prevents the need for – foster care. We value a diverse and culturally competent workplace.

Job Summary:  The Senior Director of Indian Child Welfare Consulting is a national expert providing leadership to Casey, Tribes, and States regarding child welfare systems for Indian Child Welfare programs.

Essential Responsibilities: 

Works closely with Systems Improvement, Child and Family Services, Outcome Quality Improvement, and other Casey work units to ensure alignment and continuous quality improvement on practice and outcomes from ICWP.

Leads operations within the Indian Child Welfare Programs (ICWP) work unit and oversees the work unit budget, ongoing projects, and the coordination with Casey Family Programs (CFP) Systems Improvement.

Oversees the design, development, implementation and evaluation of tribal transformation, and identification and support of best Indian  child welfare practices.  Responsibilities include ensuring compliance with legal, financial and Casey’s strategic objectives and state plans; and ensuring that the Indian Child Welfare Consulting staff works positively and effectively with all staff internal to Casey aswell as external contacts.

Directs the transformation and urban Indian center work efforts on behalf of the Casey. Identifies partners, communities, and resources for the successful transformation of the Casey field offices and development of a tribal child welfare system in each identified location.  Develops plans for ongoing maintenance and improvement of systems once established.

Identify, promote and disseminate practice models, methodologies and tools that may improve public child welfare and AI/AN child outcomes.

Understand and articulate Casey’s 2020 goals to staff and all other audiences with a vested interest in the prevention and safe reduction of youth is foster care.

Advocate Jeri Williams Testifies Before Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence

Jeri Williams [is] a member of the Klamath tribe and is a survivor of human trafficking. Williams has made it part of her life’s work to help others overcome the challenges she has faced.

She’s testifying … before U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s Task Force on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence. We’ll find out more about her personal story and the work of the task force, and get a preview of her testimony.

Oregon Public Broadcasting logoListen to the interview at the (Oregon Public Broadcasting) OPB – Radio website.

American Indian College Fund Wins $500,000 Grant for Early Education

The new grant will focus on engaging families and kin groups in the child’s educational process.

“Education in tribal communities used to be very integrated with the socialization of children, teaching children how to be within a family and a community,” said Crazy Bull. “Over the years, families have lost that role, … but we’re giving that back to parents.”

Read the full article at the Denver Post website.

Resource: National Child Welfare Workforce Institute

National Child Welfare Workforce Institute According to their website, the National Child Welfare Institute’s (NCWWI)…

… purpose is to increase child welfare practice effectiveness through diverse partnerships that focus on workforce systems development, organizational interventions, and change leadership, using data-driven capacity building, education, and professional development. NCWWI’s workforce development activities promote…

  • Learning: Fostering continuous learning that is interactive, reflective and relevant
  • Leading: Cultivating diverse leadership at multiple levels within child welfare systems
  • Changing: Supporting change through workforce development and organizational capacity building

Visit the NCWWI website to find information about upcoming webinars and teleconferences, professional education traineeships,  archives of past webinars, as well as online resources like tribal coaching manuals, reports, articles, training curricula, and more.

Swept Away: An In-Depth Look at Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Van Hunnik

This on-going series from the Indian Country Today Media Network examines Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Van Hunnik, which charges South Dakota State and local Pennington County officials with violating the rights of Indian parents and tribes in child custody proceedings.

Indian Country Today Media Network logo Although the State of South Dakota appeared to be flagrantly operating outside the scope of the Indian Child Welfare Act, Hanna says, “This case is not just about ICWA. It’s about the systematic denial of due process and fundamental fairness: Indian parents and children have a constitutional right to have a meaningful hearing, one in which they can present evidence and be heard, before the state can take their children for two months and place them in foster care. Since 2010, they have been denied that right in the Seventh Judicial Circuit Court.”

Read Part 1: South Dakota’s Native Children Denied Due Process (2/20/14)
Read Part 2: Suing South Dakota to Protect Native Children (3/17/14)
Read Part 3: The Battle for South Dakota’s Native Children Begins (4/14/14)

AG West Delivers Remarks at the Thirty-second Annual Protecting Our Children Conference

Notwithstanding setbacks like the Baby Girl decision, we will continue to stand up for ICWA because, as we said in the Supreme Court, it’s “a classic implementation of Congress’s plenary [trust] responsibility . . . for Indians.”  You see, for us, standing up for ICWA means standing strong for tribal sovereignty.  “Nothing could be more at the core of tribal self-determination and tribal survival,” we said during oral argument in the Baby Girl case, “than . . . [determining] tribal membership and . . .  [caring] about what happens to Indian children.”

Department of Justice sealSee the full transcript of the Attorney General’s remarks at the Department of Justice website.

“IV-E 101” Webinar on April 21, 2014

Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe Children & Family Services in collaboration with Casey Family Programs invite you to attend a webinar:

Casey Family Programs - Indian Child Welfare ProgramsThe Great Seal - Port Gamble Sklallam Nation“IV-E 101”

Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe was the first tribe in the United States to be approved to receive direct Title IV-E funds. In this webinar, Port Gamble representatives will give an  overview of the Tribe’s experiences with pursuing direct funding, administering its own program, and lessons learned.

This is an opportunity for peer consultation, during which tribes who are interested in increasing their understanding of IV-E requirements and pursuing their own IV-E funding can learn from Port Gamble and ask questions about the direct IV-E application and administration process.

Date & Time: Monday, April 21, 2014
12:00 pm to 1:30 pm PST

Format: Via online Adobe Connect webinar; participants will need access to the internet plus ability to telephone in to a conference line for audio

Featured speakers:
Andrea Smith, Children & Family Services Attorney
Jolene George, Director of Behavioral Health

Topics will include:

  • History behind Port Gamble pursuing IV-E funding
  • Timeline of Title IV programs
  • Highlights of challenges
  • Q&A

RSVP: Please respond by April 18 to Tanya Dumas at tdumas at casey dot org with your name, affiliation, and email address. Connection details will be sent to registered participants.

Veronica’s Birth Mom Drops Challenge to Indian Child Welfare Act

Baby Veronica’s birth mother has filed a voluntary dismissal of a federal lawsuit against the Cherokee Nation and the U.S. government, which requested that parts of the Indian Child Welfare Act be declared unconstitutional, attorneys in the case announced Tuesday.

Read the full article at the Tulsa World website and related articles at Indian Country Today Media NetworkTulsa’s Channel 8 website, Oklahoma’s News On Six website and Charleston’s ABC News 4 website.

NICWA 2014-2015 Training Dates

2014-2015 Training Institute Dates !

September 8-10, 2014 – Portland, Oregon
-ICWA Basics
-Advanced ICWA
-Positive Indian Parenting

December 1-3, 2014 – San Diego, California
-ICWA Basics
-Advanced ICWA
-Positive Indian Parenting

April 23-24, 2015 – Portland, Oregon
-ICWA Basics
-Positive Indian Parenting

ICWA Basics will be taught as a two-day course covering the basics of the Indian Child Welfare Act with a third optional add-on day, Advanced ICWA, for those wanting deeper knowledge.

Positive Indian Parenting will be a train-the-trainer course to help communities run a parenting class focused on Native parenting styles.

More details are available on the NICWA website.

Push for Change in Foster Care Rules

While the state of North Dakota has long required background checks for foster parents and other adults in foster homes, that’s not necessarily been the case on the state’s American Indian reservations, something Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said he hopes to change.

Read the full article at the Jamestown Sun website.

State Judges Respond To Federal Order (SD)

Four judges in Rapid City say a federal judge went too far in requiring them to sign orders to produce transcripts. Their response, filed this weekend in federal court in Rapid City, is the most recent action in an ongoing lawsuit claiming violations of the Indian Child Welfare Act and the 14th Amendment in Pennington County.

Read the full article at the South Dakota Public Broadcasting website.

Representing Victims of Domestic & Sexual Violence from Tribal Communities (MN)

ABA-Commission on Domestic and Sexual ViolenceThe American Bar Association Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence, in collaboration with the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), Office on Violence Against Women, is pleased to present a two-day training, The Fundamentals of Representation of Victims of Domestic & Sexual Violence from Tribal Communities, on May 15-16, 2014 in Minneapolis, MN.

This interactive, 2-day training will provide litigation skills for practicing attorneys and advocacy skills for legal advocates that will enable them to more effectively, ethically, and holistically represent victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking from Tribal nations and communities. Through a variety of learning activities including small group exercises, demonstrations, role-plays, and facilitated discussions, participants will be better able to safely and effectively represent victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking  from Tribal nations and communities.

This training is interactive.  Participants will be working with other participants and faculty to generate ideas and facilitate effective learning

To sign up please click: REGISTER HERE


Registration:  Online registration is required to attend the training. Licensed attorneys will be given priority.Registration is limited to 40 participants. Priority will be given to licensed attorneys. If accepted, participants will receive a confirmation e-mail that will include information about accommodations and training logistics. Please allow at least 3 business days before contacting the CDSV about the status of your registration.

Date and Location: The training will be held on Thursday, May 15, 2014 from 8:30am – 5:00pm, and Friday May 16, 2013, from 9:30am – 4:30pm at The Commons Hotel, located at 615 Washington Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN, in the Pinnacle Ballroom.

Accommodations:   For your convenience a room block has been booked at the The Commons Hotel.

Fees:   There are no registration fees for this Training.

Contact:   If you need assistance with completing your registration or have any questions, please visit the ABA Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence website.


Circuit Judges Accused of Ignoring Federal Judge’s Order in Suit Over Native Children Custody Hearings

A federal judge wants to know why some South Dakota state judges are refusing to turn over transcripts in Indian Child Welfare Act cases.

As part of a lawsuit filed by the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, the state agreed to provide the transcripts. The transcripts are needed to determine whether Indian parents and guardians are being afforded due process in ICWA hearings.

Five circuit judges, however, have refused to sign an order to release the information. So U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey Viken ordered them to explain their stance by March 28.

See related articles at  and the Rapid City Journal website.

A Survey and Analysis of Select Title IV-E Tribal-State Agreements including Template of Promising Practices

The Association on American Indian Affairs, with support from Casey Family Programs, recently released their report,  A Survey and Analysis of Select Title IV-E Tribal-State Agreements including Template of Promising Practices. From the report:

This report provides a detailed analysis of Title IV-E tribal-state agreements, which includes an overall summary of the status of current Title IV-E agreements, as well as a breakdown of the provisions that can be found in those agreements by subject matter. This report was prepared during a 14 month period between October 2012 and December 2013. It took into account 98 agreements representing 267 Indian Nations from 16 states that pass federal Title IV-E allowable costs to the tribes.  During that period, some agreements expired and new agreements were developed. Other agreements were replaced by direct funding programs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 679B. Thus, this report does not attempt to provide  definitive numbers of  current tribal-state agreements or their exact status.  Rather, its goal is to provide an overview of the substantive landscape of Title IV-E tribal-state agreements during a particular window of time.

Along with this report is a template providing provisions from the various tribal-state agreements that elucidate promising practices in these agreements.

View and download the full report here.

NICWA Statement Examines Child Maltreatment Statistics in Washington Post Article

In response to a March 9, 2014 article in the Washington Post, “The hard lives — and high suicide rate — of Native American children on reservations,” the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) provided background information to reporter Sari Horwitz about child mistreatment statistics related to American Indian and Alaska Native children.  The statement corrects the article’s statistics about maltreatment and differentiates between physical child abuse versus the less-well-defined neglect.

Read the statement at the NICWA website.

Senate passes Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014

Thursday (March 13), the United States Senate passed the bipartisan Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014, legislation that includes Senator Mazie K. HironoMazie K Hirono, official portrait’s measures for Native Hawaiian children. The bill updates and improves the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program created in 1990, which provides states with federal funding to help low-income families afford child care while working or in job training programs.

. . .

The Senate also passed an amendment to increase funding for Native and tribal child care organizations, including Native Hawaiian organizations. The amendment by Senator Al Franken (D-MN), cosponsored by Senators Hirono and Murkowski, increases current Native organization funding from “not more than 2%” to “not less than 2%” of total CCDBG federal funds.

Read the full article at the Hawaii 24/7 website.
Read a related article at the Honolulu Civil Beat website.

Jon Tester

The U.S. Senate today approved Senator Jon Tester’s bipartisan measure to improve more child care facilities in Indian Country by removing a restriction that limits funding if making improvements to the facility would temporarily reduce child care services.

Read the press release at Sen. Tester’s website.


Yale Symposium Examines Baby Veronica and the Future of ICWA

Looking back at the Baby Veronica case, Pata said, “Everyone believed the case was strong, not just on the ICWA side, but this was a military man who had certain protections, but it wasn’t. This child was being removed from a white religious family and was going back to an Indian family, which no one was so sure about, and that was the underlying message that was going out.”

Indian Country Today Media Network logoRead the full article at the Indian Country Today Media Network website.

The Hard Lives — and High Suicide Rate — of Native American Children on Reservations

[T]he silence that has shrouded suicide in Indian country is being pierced by growing alarm at the sheer number of young Native Americans taking their own lives — more than three times the national average, and up to 10 times on some reservations.

Washington Post article screen shotRead the full article at the Washington Post website.

Read the statement from the National Indian Child Welfare Association clarifying the child maltreatment statistics included in this article.

3rd Annual Utah Indian Child Welfare Conference

Ft. Duchesne-Hosted by the Ute Tribe

Conference Presentations will focus on the theme Our Culture, Our Children, Our Children , specifically:

•Trends in Indian child welfare and what specifically can be done to make a difference.

•A practical application of the Indian Child Welfare Act and the child’s best interest.

•What happens when a child is transferred from state to tribal jurisdiction.

•Tools and techniques to mending the balance of communication in family meetings.

•The recruitment of Native American foster homes.

•Utah’s efforts to lead the way in state/tribe collaboration.

•The voice of the children: A youth panel.

There is no cost to attend, however registration is necessary to get accurate lodging and meal counts:

For more information, contact Utah Foster Care’s Native American Foster Family Recruiter Brandi Sweet-Tsosie at (877) 505-5437.

SAMHSA Grants Fund Expansions of Juvenile Treatment Drug Court Services

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, is accepting applications for fiscal year 2014 Grants to Expand Substance Abuse Treatment in Adult Tribal Healing to Wellness Courts and Juvenile Treatment Drug Courts. The purpose of this program is to expand substance abuse treatment services in existing adult Tribal Healing to Wellness Courts and in Juvenile Treatment Drug Courts, which use the treatment drug court model in order to provide alcohol and drug treatment to defendants/offenders.

View the Request for Applications.

View the 2014 Grant announcements to find other funding opportunities.

SAMHSA logoApplications are due by March 17, 2014.

Senate Indian Affairs Committee Oversight Hearing: “Early Childhood Development and Education in Indian Country”

United State Senate seal
Date: 02/26/2014 02:30 PM

Type: Oversight Hearing

Watch the video of the hearing at the Senate website (coverage begins at 10:15 of the video).

Panel 1

Ms. Linda K. Smith

Deputy Assistant Secretary and Inter-Departmental Liaison-for Early Childhood Development, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, DC
View Testimony

Panel 2

Mr. Danny Wells

Executive Officer-Division of Education, Chickasaw Nation, Ada, OK
View Testimony

Ms. Barbara Fabre

Chairman-National Indian Child Care Association; and Director, Child Care/Early Childhood Program, White Earth Ojibwe Nation, White Earth, MN
View Testimony

Ms. Jacquelyn Power

Superintendent/Principal-Blackwater Community School, Coolidge, AZ
View Testimony

Dr. E. Jane Costello

Associate Director for Research-Center for Child and Family Policy, Duke University, Durham, NC
View Testimony

Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas 4th Annual Judicial Symposium

Thursday, April 24, 2014
Alabama-Coushatta Reservation, Texas

Protecting our Children and Families… Moving Toward a Healthy and Vital Community Through Tribal-State-Federal Collaboration

Alabama-Coushatta sealTopics include:

Facilitator: Cheryl D. Fairbanks, Attorney and Tribal Justice
SPEAKER: Chrissi Ross Nimmo, Assistant Attorney General, Cherokee Nation

Facilitator: Hon. Robert Mann, Chief Judge, Alabama-Coushatta Tribal Court
SPEAKER: Gina Jackson, Director ICW, IPA, Casey Family Programs

See the symposium flyer to learn more about the agenda for this free event and how to RSVP.

Human Rights to Culture, Family, and Self-Determination: The Case of Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl

Kristen Carpenter and Lorie Graham have contributed a chapter in the forthcoming  Indigenous Rights In International Law (Kirchner and Policastrin, Eds.).  It looks at the international human rights issues raised by the Supreme court’s decision in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl.

Abstract: The well-being of indigenous children is a subject of major concern for indigenous peoples and human rights advocates alike. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl that the Indian Child Welfare Act did not prevent the adoption of a Cherokee child by a non-Indian couple. This occurred over the objections of her Cherokee biological father, extended family, and Tribal Nation. After the decision, Baby Girl’s father and the adoptive couple contested the matter in a number of proceedings, none of which considered the child’s best interests as an Indian child. The tribally-appointed attorney for Baby Girl, as well as the National Indian Child Welfare Association and National Congress for American Indians, began examining additional venues for advocacy. Believing that the human rights of Baby Girl, much like those of other similarly situated indigenous children, were being violated in contravention of the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples Rights, and other instruments of international law, they asked us to bring the matter to the attention of the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples Rights (“UNSR”). We prepared a “statement of information” to alert the UNSR of the human rights violations occurring in the case. With the permission of the attorneys and organizations involved, this chapter introduces the Baby Girl case, contextualizes the claims in international human rights law, and then reproduces the statement of information and portions of the UNSR’s subsequent public statement. It concludes with an update on the Baby Girl case and broader discussion about the potential for using international law and legal forums to protect the human rights of indigenous children.

Download the full article from the Social Science Research Network website.

Social Workers Attend ICWA Conference (North Dakota)

Social workers have come from all over the state to try to find ways to keep Indian children out of the foster care system. Statistics indicate that they are removed from their homes three times as often as non-Indians.

Watch the video clip and read the transcript at the KFYR website.

Attorney General’s Task Force on Native Children Exposed to Violence Holds Second of Four Meetings

About 75 people attended the all-day hearing at Talking Stick Resort near Scottsdale. It was the second of four across the country to secure testimony and information so the task force can generate policy recommendations for Attorney General Eric Holder.

In December, the committee was in Bismarck, N.D. The final two hearings are scheduled in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and Anchorage, Alaska.

Read more about the task force meeting at the Casa Grande Dispatch website.

Transcript of Associate Attorney General Tony West’s Remarks at the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee on American Indian/Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence Hearing (February 11, 2014)
Department of Justice seal


We’ve come together today – from communities throughout the southwest and from across the country – to address a serious and urgent problem: the problem of violence and its effect on American Indian and Alaska Native children.

We know that more than 60 percent of all children in the United States are exposed to some form of violence, crime, or abuse, ranging from brief encounters as witnesses to serious violent episodes as victims.  Almost 40 percent are direct victims of 2 or more violent acts.

And for our children who are American Indian and Alaska Native, current research doesn’t give us a complete picture of its scope, but we know that they native are particularly vulnerable to encountering violence and trauma.  A 2008 report by the Indian Country Child Trauma Center calculated that native youth are two-and-a-half times more likely to experience trauma when compared with their non-native peers.

Read the full transcript at the Department of Justice website.

SD Panel Approves Child Sex Abuse Task Force

The task force would meet to study child sexual abuse in South Dakota and suggest ways the state could improve its policies for dealing with the problem.

The task force would include a victim, law enforcement, medical and mental health experts, child advocates and a tribal representative with experience on the issue.

Read the full article at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution website.

Nebraska Legislature Considers Bill That Would Help Prevent the Breakup of Native Families

Nebraska has the third-highest rate of Native children in foster care, said Lincoln Sen. Colby Coash, who introduced the Nebraska bill on behalf of the State-Tribal Relations Committee.
. . .
His bill would require state agencies to reach out to all tribes from which a Native child may be descended when a child who comes from multiple tribes is taken into the state’s custody. It also better defines the kinds of expert witnesses state courts can call to help them decide a Native child’s best interests in regard to his or her tribal customs.

Read more at the Journal Star website.

Federal Judge Rules Lawsuit over Treatment of South Dakota Indian Parents and Tribes Can Move Forward

A federal court has ruled that a lawsuit charging state and local officials with violating the rights of Indian parents and tribes in state child custody proceedings can go to trial.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit in March 2013 along with the ACLU of South Dakota and Dana Hanna of the Hanna Law Office in Rapid City. The lawsuit claims that Indian children are being removed from their homes in hearings that last no more than a few minutes, in which parents fail to receive a copy of the petition against them or have a chance to present evidence.

Learn more about the suit at the ACLU website. See case information on the National Indian Law Library website under Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Van Hunnik. 

Study Shows Oregon Tribal Students Doing Poorly

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A study shows many tribal children do poorly in Oregon public schools, in part because they’re frequently absent and their schools often show up at the bottom of state rankings.

The study was paid for by the Spirit Mountain Community Fund, the philanthropic arm of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.

Read the full article at the SF Gate website.

Cherokee Strengthens Child Custody Laws, Giving Preference to Biological or Tribal Family

“Without a doubt our people, especially our youth, are the tribe’s most valuable asset,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “This new Cherokee Nation law will give our tribal sovereign government and our hard-working ICWA staff an additional tool to protect our people and ensure Cherokee children have the Cherokee Nation Sealopportunity to live in a loving and nurturing home that is culturally appropriate.”

Read more at the Indian Country Today Media Network website.

Rosebud Sioux Tribal Court Orders Children Returned to Father

His two girls had been taken by their mother, Heather Shepard, to the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in October in violation of McNutt’s legal custody of the children. Despite a warrant issued for Shepard’s arrest, state law enforcement officers could not intervene since the children were on reservation land.

But, sovereignty issues were swept aside by the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Court on Dec. 20 when it ruled the children had to be returned…

Read the full article at the Rapid City Journal website.

Lawsuit Against California Districts Allege Abuse of Native Students

[T]wo federal lawsuits [were] filed December 18 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California against two Humboldt County School Districts—Eureka City and Loleta Union—that accuse school officials of perpetuating systemic physical, emotional and sexual abuse of Native American and African-American students.

“This lawsuit was really a last resort,” Nelson said. “It’s been striking that so many parents we’ve talked to have been complaining for years with no results. They’re tired of being stonewalled.”
The Wiyot Tribe of the Table Bluff Rancheria, who are the complainant in the lawsuit against the Loleta schools, had previously sent letters to the district about the harassment and inequitable treatment of Native American students, but saw no effective change in policy, Nelson said.

Read the full article at the Indian Country Today Media Network website.

Interview: Sen. Dorgan on Native Youth, Sequestration, and the Dysfunctional Congress

I’m really pleased with what [the Center for Native American Youth has] done so far. We’ve created a start-up non-profit from scratch. In 2 ½ years, I think we’ve done some significant things. We’re focusing on the well-being of Native American youth; we’re working on teen suicide prevention; and education opportunities—a series of issues. We’re also doing youth summits on Indian reservations, working with tribal officials, and parents and children. We created a program called “Champions for Change” in which we’re seeking and finding some extraordinary young people on reservations across the country who have been nominated by their tribes. We have been able to celebrate their successes and create mentors back home for others on their reservations. I’m really, really pleased with what we’ve been doing.

Indian Country Today Media Network logoRead the full interview at the Indian Country Today Media Network website.

Dana Hanna: Courts Continue to Violate ICWA in South Dakota (Native Sun News)

Earlier this year, the Oglala and Rosebud Sioux Tribes and three Indian mothers filed a lawsuit in federal court in Rapid City on behalf of all parents of minor Indian children in Pennington County. That lawsuit, Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Van Hunnik, charges that the South Dakota Department of Social Services (DSS), the Pennington County State’s Attorney’s Office, and the presiding judge and other judges in the Seventh Judicial Circuit routinely violate the constitutional and ICWA rights of Indian parents in child abuse and neglect cases. In a nutshell, the Indian plaintiffs charge that state court judges, assisted by DSS and state prosecutors, routinely order Indian children into long term foster care placements, based on allegations of neglect or abuse, without giving their parents any kind of fair and meaningful hearing. The Indian plaintiffs are seeking an order from the United States District Court that would prohibit state court judges, DSS and the State’s Attorney’s office from placing Indian children in foster homes unless they first give Indian children, parents and Tribes the fair hearing that is their right under ICWA.

Read more at the Indianz.Com  website.

Federal Committee Holds First Hearing on Tribal Youth Violence

On December 9, the U.S. attorney general’s task force on violence against American Indian and Alaskan Native children held the first of four public hearings to gather information to be submitted to the attorney general and used in policy making decisions. The meeting was held in Bismark, North Dakota, and was co-chaired by former U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan and Iroquois composer and singer Joanne Shenandoah.  Testimony focused on the effects of domestic and sexual abuse as well as witnessing violence; speakers also described programs addressing these issues and helping victims heal.

Learn more about the meeting at the following websites:

Department of Justice (12/9/2013)

Bismark Tribune (12/9/2013)

Indian Country Today Media Network (12/6/2013)

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead (12/5/2013)


Minnesota Report Focuses on Programs that Work for Indian Students

At 45.5 percent, Minnesota has the lowest on-time high-school graduation rate for its Native American students of any state in the country. Though acknowledging that hard truth, a new report by the Minnesota Campaign for Achievement Now (MinnCAN) reflects hope.

Read more at the Twin Cities Daily Planet website.

Related stories:

Fight for Baby Desirai Resembles Veronica Case

Protesters lined up in front of the courthouse while attorneys rushed inside for a closed-door hearing, where a biological father was fighting for custody of an Indian daughter.

It was like hitting “replay” on the Baby Veronica case.

Some of the same attorneys were in court again last week. And many of the same protesters held similar signs and chanted the same slogans.

Read the full article at the Tulsa World website.

SD Tribal Leaders Seek Federal Foster Care Help

Leaders of South Dakota’s nine Sioux tribes will spend time in Washington, D.C., this week seeking federal help in a long-running dispute over state government’s handling of foster care for Native American children.

Read the full article at the SFGate website.

The ICWA: 35 Years in and We Must Still Fight for Our Children by Terry Cross

In ICWA, Congress affirmed tribal authority to protect American Indian children through their own laws, courts, and services. It recognized that tribal courts are of commensurate standing to state courts. ICWA established minimum standards for states to follow in issues of custody and adoptions, giving tribes the right to intervene in state court proceedings as full parties. In an extraordinary acknowledgment of tribal sovereign authority for the time, ICWA provided protection to all tribal citizens no matter where they resided. As such, ICWA served as a catalyst for subsequent legislation that further restored the capacity of tribes to govern themselves and reinforced the era of self-determination for tribal nations.

Read the full article at Indian Country Today Media Network.

North Dakota Woman Sentenced in Toddler Death on Reservation

A Spirit Lake Indian Reservation woman who was awarded custody of infant twin girls despite a history of child neglect was sentenced Wednesday to 30 years in prison in the death of one of the children, who was thrown down an embankment.

Read the full article at the Time website.

Attorneys for Cherokee Girl’s Adoptive Parents Seek $1 Million in Legal Fees

Attorneys for the adoptive parents of a 4-year-old girl caught up in a custody dispute have filed paperwork in Oklahoma seeking $1 million in legal fees from the Cherokee Nation and the girl’s biological father, who has dropped all legal claims to his daughter.

Attorneys representing Matt and Melanie Capobianco filed paperwork in Nowata County seeking the legal fees incurred while fighting the lengthy custody battle over 4-year-old Veronica.

Read the full article at Washington Post website.

Utahn Hopes to Recruit American Indian Foster Families

Brandi Sweet is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians of North Dakota, but that heritage is only partly why she is a perfect fit for the newly created post of American-Indian foster family recruiter at Utah Foster Care.

Sweet knows what it is like to be a child in foster care. She was one.

Read more at the Salt Lake Tribune website.

Senate Bill Proposes Examining Native Youth Issues

On Wednesday, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., presented Senate Bill No. 1622 to create a national commission to study and address the high rates of poverty, child abuse, domestic violence, crime, substance abuse and high school drop outs that plague Native youth, along with making recommendations to solve those problems.

Read more at the Farmington Daily Times website.

Magdalena Schools (NM) Awarded $1.2 million for Indian Students

Magdalena Schools was awarded a $1.2 million Demonstration Grant for Indian Children from the U.S. Department of Education in September. The grant funds programs addressing the needs of Native American pre-school and high school students, according to Keri James, federal and state programs coordinator for the district. But all Magdalena students will benefit from the funding boost.

Read more at the El Defensor Chieftan website.

Collaboration Urged at Mohawks’ Child Safe Summit

If people do not think about child abuse, they will not detect child abuse.

That was the primary message of Dr. Karyn Patno, a pediatrician and founder of the ChildSafe Program at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, Vermont. Dr. Patno’s recent collaboration with the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Police on a case of suspected child abuse was the impetus for the Tribe’s first-ever Child Safe Summit, a large collective effort held this month to educate service providers and community partners on specialized resources for abuse.

Read more about the Child Safe Summit at the Indian Country Today website.

Turnover Hampers Protection of Children at ND’s Spirit Lake

The BIA assumed control of child protection services and certain foster care placements on Oct. 1, 2012, after complaints of systemic failures when the Spirit Lake tribe was running the programs.

A year later, tribal leaders and members credit BIA staff members with working hard to improve child protection, but visible progress has not yet been achieved…

Read the full story at the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead website.

A Guide to the Supreme Court Decision in “Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl” (NICWA, AAIA)

The United States Supreme Court recently issued its opinion in the case of Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl. This document is designed to:
  • Summarize the decision — what the case held about the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), what it did not hold, and what it implied.
  • Provide advocates for tribes, birth parents (particularly unwed fathers) and Indian children with possible responses to the decision, including:
    • Legal arguments to address issues raised by the Court’s legal holding.
    • Analysis of the potential for state law (primarily through state ICWAs or the equivalent) to address the issues raised by the United States Supreme Court decision, and minimize its negative impact upon tribes and Indian families and children.
    • Information about tribal-state ICWA agreements and the role of such agreements in mitigating the effects of the Court’s decision.

See the full legal analysis document at the Turtle Talk website.

April 2014 – Positive Indian Parenting, Train the Trainers (NICWA, Florida)

Become a trainer of Positive Indian Parenting (PIP). This course will provide workers with information on how to organize and conduct parenting training. Preparing lesson plans, setting up meetings, and helping parents through this training will be covered. Exercises and handouts are designed for use in small groups or with a family. A facilitator’s manual is included in each participant’s course material.

PIP is an eight-week class designed to provide a brief, practical, culturally specific training program for Native American parents (as well as non-Native American foster parents of Native American children) to explore the values and attitudes expressed in traditional Native American child-treating practices and then to apply those values to modern skills in parenting. For hundreds of years, Native American parents were guided by traditions that never left parenting to chance. These traditions were passed from one generation to the next, but they all had the same purpose: to ensure the tribe’s future through its children. While we cannot go back to the world as it once was, we can still find great values in our child-rearing experience.

The training will be in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, April 17-18, 2014.  Learn more and register at the NICWA website.

Register Now — 32nd Annual NICWA Conference: April 13-16, 2014

Register now for the 32nd Annual Protecting Our Children National American Indian Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect.  The conference will be held April 13-16, 2014, in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. See more info and register at the National Indian Child Welfare Association website.

Child welfare and legal professionals, advocates for children, tribal leaders, families, youth, and grassroots organizers will gather together in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to focus on achieving ICWA’s potential and celebrate its legacy. This conference will feature expert plenary panels, innovative workshops, networking opportunities, and celebratory events focused on serving the best interests of Native children in children’s mental health, child welfare, and juvenile justice. Please join us in our mission to protect Native children!