Nora Hickens

California Bill Aims to Increase Availability of Tribal Foster Homes

More than half of Native American children in California who are taken into foster care end up in non-Indigenous households. 

Assembly Bill 1862, which has so far met unanimous support in both houses of the state Legislature, would provide annual funding for tribes to recruit foster parents among their members, and to refurbish and repair homes so they meet standards necessary to safely accommodate children. 

Read this article in The Imprint.

Casey Family Programs honors 10 people from across the nation who are working to improve child and family well-being

Casey Family Programs, the nation’s largest operating foundation dedicated to safely reducing the need for foster care and building Communities of Hope for children and families, announced today the recipients of the 2022 Casey Excellence for Children Awards.

These awards recognize outstanding individuals for their inspiring work, exceptional leadership and unwavering dedication to improving the well-being of children and families who are engaged with the child welfare system in America.

Read the article in Yahoo Finance.

United Indian Nations of Oklahoma, the Shawnee Tribe, and the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition to host a session on Indian Boarding Schools in Tulsa, Oklahoma

The United Indian Nations of Oklahoma (UINO), the Shawnee Tribe and the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS) announced today that they will host a summit with tribes in the area discussing the history and impacts of Indian Boarding schools on June 22 at the River Spirit Casino Resort in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The one-day event Breaking the Silence: Seeking Truth, Justice, and Healing from Indian Boarding Schools in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas, will include an array of topics including an introduction of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition Coalition and unpacking the Department of Interior report, discussions on further research and investigations, healing initiatives and the next steps call to action. 

Read the article in Indian Country Today.

Communities as caretakers: The Indian Child Welfare Act as an antiracist framework for all child welfare cases.

The child welfare system is racist.  As with all systems in the United States, the system charged with protecting children is not exempt from the racist policies, practices, and mindsets that created and justified colonialization and slavery.  Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color continue to fall prey to the harsh realities of child welfare involvement, finding themselves disproportionately represented in this system.  Historically, the child welfare system has attempted to rectify this issue by implementing policies and practices that consistently fall flat.  Perhaps one of the most comprehensive attempts at rectifying these wrongs involved the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) enacted in 1978.  ICWA was created to protect Indigenous communities devastated by extraordinarily high rates of removing Indigenous children from their families and Tribes and adopting them out to non-Indigenous families.  In 2013, eighteen of the United States’ most prominent child welfare organizations collectively asserted in an amicus brief that through the creation of ICWA, “Congress adopted the gold standard for child welfare policies and practices that should be afforded to all children.”  Specifically, they asserted that ICWA serves as “a model for child welfare and placement decisionmaking [sic] that should be extended to all children.”

Read the full article in the Rutgers Journal of Law & Public Policy.

Community members needed to help improve Minnesota child welfare policies and practices

Minnesotans are needed to help shape child welfare policy, practice and training recommendations by serving on Citizen Review Panels for the state’s child protection system.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services is currently seeking more than 80 volunteers for citizen panels in Chisago, Hennepin, Ramsey and Winona counties. By bringing a crucial community voice to county and statewide child welfare policies and procedures, panel members play an integral role in ensuring that the child protection system protects children from abuse and neglect. They also help identify and eliminate racial disparities in the system.

Read the article in Indian Country Today.

Relative Placement in Washington Supreme Court Decision

Even though this is not an ICWA case, three people have sent me this opinion by Justice Montoya Lewis regarding the primacy of relative placement in child protection proceedings. This opinion points to all sorts of issues that beleaguers relative placement, especially certain aspects of background checks and prior involvement with the system. Here, the Court explicitly holds that prior involvement in the system alone cannot be consider as a reason to keep a child out of a relative placement, and seems to imply that both criminal history and immigration status cannot be considered either.

Read the decision, and discussion, at Turtle Talk.

Hanna hired for ICWA cases

The OST Council met Tuesday in Batesland at the Bill C. Bear Memorial gym at Batesland school for their January regular session; after many questions from the gathered tribal council representatives, the council voted 11-6-1 to approve the annual attorney contract for Dana Hanna who represents the Oglala Sioux Tribe in Indian Child Welfare Act cases and in lawsuits against the State of South Dakota.

Read the full article in the Lakota Times.

The Indian Child Welfare Act is the gold standard

George F. Will’s Jan. 6 op-ed, “The racial politics of the Indian Child Welfare Act,”  ignored the benefits of the Indian Child Welfare Act and the basic facts of tribal citizenship. The ICWA is considered the gold standard of child welfare laws and establishes a process that promotes efforts to keep children connected to their families, communities and heritage. There’s a reason those who know the ICWA best — from child welfare experts to tribes — have filed briefs defending the law.

Read the Op-Ed in the Washington Post.

Tribes file cert petition defending Indian Child Welfare Act before Supreme Court

On September 3, four tribes and the United States Solicitor General filed cert petitions with the U.S. Supreme Court in Brackeen v. Haaland, defending the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and its constitutionality. Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr., Morongo Band of Mission Indians Chairman Charles Martin, Oneida Nation Chairman Tehassi Hill, and Quinault Indian Nation President Guy Capoeman issued the following statement:

“State and federal courts have repeatedly upheld the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act for decades, but attacks on this critical law continue. Our tribes continue to fight for the Indian Child Welfare Act because it ensures the best outcomes for Indian children by keeping them connected to their families and tribal communities. We can never go back to the dark times when Indian children were removed from their homes and stripped of their heritage.

“The Indian Child Welfare Act provides a process for protecting the best interests of Indian children in the adoption and foster care systems. It is overwhelmingly supported across the political spectrum, and has been defended by Republican and Democratic administrations alike. Child advocates such as the Casey Family Programs call the Indian Child Welfare Act’s protective features the “gold standard” of child welfare. We look forward to the Supreme Court upholding the constitutionality of this vital law.”

Read the full article at the Indian Country Today website.

Domestic violence, the Indian Child Welfare Act, and Alaska Natives: How domestic violence is weaponized against Alaska Native survivors.

After the forced separation of Indian families, Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) to create heightened procedural protections to maintain and preserve Indian families. Following Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, 570 U.S. 637 (2013), courts have indicated concern that the heightened standards of ICWA may be overbroad and harm Indian children. This Note provides an empirical counter to that concern, illustrating that, under similar circumstances, Alaska Native parental survivors of domestic violence lose custody of their children at considerably higher rates than non-Alaska Natives. The continued disparate treatment suggests that ICWA continues to serve an important purpose in protecting Indian families and ought to be strengthened.

Read the full law review article in the Yale Journal of Law & Feminism.

Lummi Nation reimagines foster care for Indigenous families

Several years ago, the Lummi Tribal Council told Diana Phair, the executive director of the tribe’s Housing Authority: “We have 200-some children in foster care. We need to bring our children home.” 

With the tribal members’ input, she and her colleagues devised Sche’lang’en Village, a novel housing arrangement for parents seeking to reunite with their children in foster care, homeless families, those overcoming addictions and women fleeing domestic violence. The sliding scale, low-cost, drug- and alcohol-free housing project, would be infused with social services, allow for indefinite stays and have a stated and intentional purpose: to preserve and protect Native American families by providing an opportunity for families to make transformational life changes.

Read the full article at the Crosscut website.

Bay Mills to Host Third Annual VAWA and ICWA Training

Bay Mills Indian Community

3rd annual Noojimo’iwewin: A VAWA and ICWA Training

Aug. 4-6, in-person and online 

BRIMLEY, Mich. — Picking up where last year’s training left off, Bay Mills Indian Community sets out to host its third annual Noojimo’iwewin: A VAWA and ICWA Training, Aug. 4-6. The event is hosted both in-person at the Bay Mills Horizon Center and online via Zoom. Once again, this timely training focuses on issues of child welfare, domestic violence, and community healing. Registration is free and still open!

Those who will attend in-person must book their room by at the Bay Mills Resort & Casino by Tuesday, July 27 using the training room block information. If you have any questions, please contact Neoshia Roemer at This training is made possible by the Office of Tribal Justice’s TJS funding and organized by The Whitener Group.

This course is approved for 9.25 (including 1.25 Elimination of Bias) Minnesota Continuing Legal Education credits and this course is approved by the NASW-Michigan Social Work Continuing Education Collaborative for 9 credits.

Read the full press release or sign up for this training through the Turtle Talk website.

Lakota youth return home after more than a century away at Indian boarding school

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Nine Rosebud Lakota children began their last morning away from their homelands Friday at the base of a bluff overlooking the Missouri River. Shortly after 1 a.m. Friday morning, a caravan carrying the nine Lakota children who died more than 140 years ago arrived here with a police escort in front of them for a brief welcome ceremony and meal.

Read the full article at the Indianz website.

First Indigenous woman appointed to Calif. commission advocating for women and girls

SAN DIEGO — Gov. Gavin Newsom has appointed Carlsbad resident and professor Joely Proudfit to the Commission on the Status of Women and Girls, making her the first Indigenous woman to serve the organization.

Proudfit (Luiseño/Payómkawichum) is a professor at California State University, San Marcos who has served as American Indian studies chair and director of the California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center since 2008.

During Proudfit’s four-year term, she not only plans to support the concerns of all women, she also hopes to highlight issues that impact Indigenous women and girls disproportionately.

Read the full article at the Sacramento Bee website.

Proposed Legislation: H.R.4348

H.R.4348 – To remove administrative barriers to participation of Indian tribes in Federal child welfare programs, and increase Federal funding for tribal child welfare programs, and for other purposes.

Read about this bill at the 117th Congress website.

Proposed Legislation: S.2167/H.R.4052

S.2167/H.R.4052 – A bill to establish a national, research-based, and comprehensive home study assessment process for the evaluation of prospective foster parents and adoptive parents and provide funding to States and Indian tribes to adopt such process.

Read more about this bill in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Opinion: Deb Haaland: My grandparents were stolen from their families as children. We must learn about this history.

As I read stories about an unmarked grave in Canada where the remains of 215 Indigenous children were found last month, I was sick to my stomach. But the deaths of Indigenous children at the hands of government were not limited to that side of the border. Many Americans may be alarmed to learn that the United States also has a history of taking Native children from their families in an effort to eradicate our culture and erase us as a people. It is a history that we must learn from if our country is to heal from this tragic era.

Read the full article at the Washington Post website.

Proposed Legislation: S.1868

S.1868 – A bill to amend the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act to require that equitable distribution of assistance include equitable distribution to Indian Tribes and Tribal organizations, to increase amounts reserved for allotment to Indian Tribes and Tribal organizations under certain circumstances, and to reserve amounts for migrant programs under certain circumstances, and to provide for a Government Accountability Office report on child abuse and neglect in American Indian Tribal communities.

Read more about this bill at the 117th Congress website.

ICWA: Reclaiming Indigenous identity

The Indian Child Welfare Act became law in 1978 with a goal of keeping Native children with their families and tribes. As Blackfeet citizen and Salish descendant Brooke Pepion Swaney found out, the law was overlooked when Kendra was adopted by the Mylnechuk family. Brooke’s first feature-length documentary, “Daughter of a Lost Bird,” premieres at the prestigious Human Rights Watch Festival in New York, and everywhere online.

Read the full article at the Indian Country Today website.

ICWA’s Irony

The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA or the Act) is a federal statute that protects Indian children by keeping them connected to their families and culture. The Act’s provisions include support for family reunification, kinship care preferences, cultural competency considerations and community involvement. These provisions parallel national child welfare policies. Nevertheless, the Act is relentlessly attacked as a law that singles out Indian children for unique and harmful treatment. This is untrue but, ironically, it will be true if challenges to the ICWA are successful. To prevent this from occurring, the defense of the Act needs to change. For too long, this defense has focused on justifying the Act’s alleged different treatment of Indian children. Now, it is time to refute this charge and demonstrate this difference is illusory.

Read the full law review article in the American Indian Law Review.

OpEd: Applied Behavior Analysis is abusive to Native children

I am an Ojibwe autistic parent of autistic children, and a disability advocate. My children and I are statistically insignificant, and we routinely endure systemic erasure. Most Native autistic people do not get an accurate diagnosis or the support they need at any age. Native communities desperately need access to accurate information about autism and culturally responsive care.

Read the full article at the Indian Country Today website.

Proposed Legislation: H.R.1566

H.R.1566 – To amend the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act to require that equitable distribution of assistance include equitable distribution to Indian tribes and tribal organizations and to increase amounts reserved for allotment to Indian tribes and tribal organizations under certain circumstances, and to provide for a Government Accountability Office report on child abuse and neglect in American Indian tribal communities.

Read more about this bill at the 117th Congress website.

Four California tribes voice urgent concerns about the Humboldt child welfare system

Today, the Yurok Tribe, Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria, the Wiyot Tribe and the Trinidad Rancheria announced their support of the California Attorney General’s effort to pursue a court order requiring the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services Child Welfare Services Division and the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office to fully and transparently implement the terms of a 2018 court ruling regarding the agencies’ mismanagement of child abuse and neglect cases.

Read the full article at the Indian Country Today website.