NICWA Training Institute – June 2023

NICWA’s June 2023 Training Institute will be held in St. Paul, Minnesota June 6 – 8, 2023. Trainings include Child Protection Teams in Indian Country and Positive Indian Parenting. Early bird registration is available through May 5 at the registration website.

Learn about this and other upcoming training institutes at the NICWA website.

NICWA Releases New State of American Indian and Alaska Native Children and Families Report

The State of American Indian and Alaska Native Children and Families Report is a six-part series of data briefs that presents current data on American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) child and family well-being. Each data brief covers an aspect of well-being data, including economic indicators, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), child welfare system involvement, mortality rates and causes, and behavioral health and substance use. These data briefs are followed by a set of proposed questions for future directions in policy, practice, and research. This report is funded by the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.

Read the full report at the NICWA website.

Upcoming Trainings from the National Indian Child Welfare Association

The National Indian Child Welfare Association is offering the following programs:

Positive Indian Parenting – Virtual

August 22-25, 2022; September 12-15, 2022

Positive Indian Parenting – Niagara Falls, New York

September 20-22, 2022

Understanding ICWA – Niagara Falls, New York

September 20-22, 2022

Qualified Expert Witness – Portland, Oregon

January 31- February 2, 2023

Cross-Cultural Skills – Portland, Oregon

January 31- February 2, 2023

Learn more about NICWA conferences and trainings.

Webinar: Indian Child Welfare: Practice Impacts and Responses to COVID-19 in State Agencies

Join NICWA for a webinar with state Indian child welfare professionals to hear discussions about impacts to state agency services and implementation of the Indian Child Welfare Act during the pandemic.

-Yvonne Barrett, Manager of Indian Child Welfare Act Program, Minnesota Department of Human Services
-Adam Becenti, Director of Tribal Affairs, Oregon Department of Human Services
-Natalie Norberg, Director of the Office of Children’s Services, Alaska Department of Health and Social Services
-Tleena Ives, Director of Tribal Relations, Washington Department of Children, Youth, and Families

Moderator: David Simmons, Government Affairs and Advocacy Director, NICWA

Time: Jun 30, 2020 11:00 AM in Pacific Time (US and Canada)

Register here.

38th Annual Protecting Our Children National American Indian Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect

March 29–April 1, 2020
Denver, Colorado

Each year, NICWA hosts the largest national gathering on American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) child advocacy issues. With over 1,400 attendees—and growing every year—this four-day conference has become the premiere national event addressing tribal child welfare and well-being. Keynote speakers range from federal officials at the highest level of government to youth with lived experience in child welfare systems.

NICWA provides meaningful programming to conference attendees, creating a space where participants can learn about the latest developments and best practices from experts in the field and from one another. Participants represent a cross-section of fields and interests including child welfare, mental health, and juvenile justice service providers; legal professionals; students; advocates for children; and tribal, state, and federal leaders.

Additional information available at the NICWA website.

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.

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.

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.  

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.

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

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.

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:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!


Tribal Leaders and Organizations Denounce the South Carolina Supreme Court’s Decision and Announce Pursuit of Civil Rights Lawsuit for “Baby Veronica”

Native American Rights Fund, National Congress of American Indians, and National Indian Child Welfare Association announce pursuit of civil rights lawsuit for Baby Veronica.

Three of the nation’s leading tribal organizations announced today they are in the early stages of pursuing litigation to protect the civil rights of Veronica Brown, acitizen of the Cherokee Nation who has been denied due process in the South Carolina courts.

Read more at the NARF news blog.

Leonhard: ‘Human and Constitutional Rights’ Violated in Baby Veronica Case

Brent Leonhard, an attorney for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Oregon, was asked by Indian Country Today Media Network to weigh in on the controversy over the South Carolina Supreme Court ruling to remove three-year-old Veronica Brown from her biological father and give her to an adoptive couple.

Read more at the Indian Country Today website.


NICWA Webinar: Understanding the Decision in “Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl” (recording available)

If you were unable to join this webinar on the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl,  you can access the recorded version here.

On June 25, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, the South Carolina adoption case involving the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) that has garnered significant attention. In their decision, the court reversed and remanded Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl back to the lower courts for further review, the outcome of which will determine who should have custody of Veronica.

The National Indian Child Welfare Association will host a webinar for those interested in learning:

  • What were the court’s holdings in this case?
  • How does this decision impact the application of ICWA?
  • What are the possible implications of this decision for Indian Country?
  • What are the next steps for this case and for the national campaign to protect ICWA?

Date: Tuesday, July 2, 2013NICWA logo
Time: 11 a.m. Pacific / 2 p.m. Eastern
Presenter: Adrian Smith, JD, MSW, NICWA government affairs associate

Webinar registration information will be sent to all NICWA members at 5 p.m. Pacific time on Monday, June 1, 2013.

This FREE webinar is open to NICWA members, and the recording will be made available to the public following the live presentation. Become a NICWA member here.


2013 Indian Child Welfare Training Institutes (NICWA, Oregon)

Learn more and register at the NICWA website.

June 5–6, 2013 | Portland, Oregon

Participants may choose one of the two workshops listed below.

Introduction to Tribal Child Welfare

This two-day workshop is designed for tribal staff, tribal council members, or child welfare committee or commission members who are new to the field of child welfare. Participants will receive an overview of tribal child welfare services and practices with a special focus on the relationship between sovereignty and a tribe’s role in keeping children safe.

Positive Indian Parenting


Our most popular training, Positive Indian Parenting prepares tribal and non-tribal child welfare personnel to train American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) parents using a culturally specific approach. The materials presented during this two-day training draw on the strengths of historic Indian child-rearing patterns and blend traditional values with modern skills.

August 20–21, 2013 | Portland, Oregon

Participants may choose one of the two workshops listed below.

NICWA’s Medicaid Toolkit: A Tool for Building and Expanding upon Tribal Children’s Mental Health Delivery Systems

Tribal children’s mental health program sustainability is dependent upon funding, among other factors. Medicaid is the largest health insurance program for low-income Americans and remains severely underutilized by AI/AN programs. This two-day institute unveils a new tool NICWA developed for tribal programs interested in accessing and increasing the use of Medicaid as a payer source for children’s mental health services.

Developing Professional and Organizational Capacity for Cultural Competence

The purpose of this institute is to enhance the participant’s understanding of the need for both professional and organizational cultural competence. The presenter will present definitions of cultural competence and discuss a model for both individual and organizational capacity development.

September 9–12, 2013 | Portland, Oregon

Participants may choose one of the two series below. Each series has two interrelated workshops; participants can choose to take one or both workshops in the progression.


Understanding the Indian Child Welfare Act (Sept 9–10)

Advanced Practice in ICWA (Sept 11–12)


Overview of Tribal In-Home Services Systems of Care (Sept 9–10)

Planning and Sustaining Tribal In-Home Services Systems of Care (Sept 11–12)

Politico Op-Ed from Echohawk, Pata, and Cross about “Adoptive Parents v. Baby Girl”

John Echohawk, Executive Director of the Native American Rights Fund; Jacqueline Pata, Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians; and Terry Cross, Executive Director of the National Indian Child Welfare Association, have published an op-ed in Politico on Adoptive Parents v. Baby Girl, which was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court today.  To read the op-ed, click here.

April 15, 2013: Teleconference on ICWA Supreme Court Case

Supreme Court BuildingThe Tribal Supreme Court Project – the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) and the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) – along with the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA), will host a national teleconference and briefing to review the arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl.

During the call, participants will hear from a variety of individuals, legal experts, and leaders regarding the case before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, April 16, 2013.

 To call in to this operated assisted call dial (877) 856-2376

Click here to RSVP in advance.

 Schedule of Call

  • Introductory Statements by Tribal Supreme Court Project – NARF & NCAI – and NICWA
  • Statement by Chief Bill John Baker of the Cherokee Nation
  • Statements by John Nichols & Shannon Jones – Legal Representation for Brown Family
  • Statements by Amicus Briefs in Support
    • Casey Family Programs Brief – Martin Guggenheim
    • Adult Adoptees Brief – Diane Tells His Name
    • History of ICWA – Terry Cross, National Indian Child Welfare Association
  • Question & Answer Session for Media

NICWA’s Terry Cross: In Defense of Dusten Brown

nicwa_logoAn op-ed from Terry Cross, the executive director of the National Indian Child Welfare Association discussing the media and public attention on Dusten Brown, the father in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl (12-399):

At the heart of the case Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl is the story of a father who desperately wants to raise his daughter. Dusten Brown is a good father and an honorable man who has found himself in extraordinary circumstances. He is also a parent who has weathered scathing criticism from a public largely miseducated on the facts of the case that brought him into a national spotlight that he never sought.

See the entire op-ed piece.

Also, see court documents from the case at the Tribal Supreme Court Project.

NARF, NCAI, and NICWA coordinate filing of amicus (friends of the court) briefs in “Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl”

US SupremeCourtBackground: Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl is a case in which the South Carolina Supreme Court held that a Native American (Indian) child could not be adopted by non-Indian parents without complying with the requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The court ordered the child returned to her biological father after she had lived with her adoptive parents from birth until 2 years of age.

In 2009, a couple from South Carolina sought to adopt an Indian child from her non-Indian single mother in Oklahoma. The biological father contested the adoption on the grounds that he was not properly notified in accordance with ICWA, and won his cases in trial court and on appeal with the state supreme court. The case has received extensive coverage in the national media, and spurred calls for Congress to review and make amendments to the 1978 law.

On October 1, 2012, the adoptive couple petitioned the United States Supreme Court to review the case. On January 4, 2013, the court granted certiorari and will hear the case on April 16, 2013.


For Immediate Release
March 29, 2013

Media Contacts:
Thom Wallace – National Congress of American Indians
O (202) 466-7767 ext. 207
C (202) 754-0466

Nicole Adams – National Indian Child Welfare Association
O (503) 222-4044 ext. 133
C (503)754-0466

Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl

Amicus Briefs in Support of Brown Family Include U.S. Solicitor General, 19 States, and Broad Coalition of Supporters

Twenty-Four Briefs Call for Brown Family—Daughter, Veronica, and
Father, Dusten—to Remain Together and
Indian Child Welfare Act to Remain Intact

Brown Family, Who Have Prevailed in Every Court So Far, Will Have
Fate Decided by the Supreme Court in a Case to be Heard on April 16th

Washington, DC—The United States federal government and 19 states are among a broad coalition who filed amicus briefs yesterday with the United States Supreme Court supporting the rights of Native American father Dusten Brown and his daughter, Veronica, to remain together as a family, calling for the nation’s highest court to uphold a previous South Carolina Supreme Court decision. The well-being of Veronica, the Brown family, and the importance of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is a focus of all the briefs.

The case Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, to be heard by the Supreme Court on April 16, 2013, involves a South Carolina couple seeking review of a South Carolina Supreme Court ruling and attempting to force Dusten Brown, a member of the Cherokee Nation, to give his daughter Veronica up for adoption. Mr. Brown, who is now raising Veronica at their home in Oklahoma, has prevailed in every court that has considered this matter, including the South Carolina Family Court and the South Carolina Supreme Court.

Joining the U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli and 19 states, including 18 state attorneys general, are a large array of groups who submitted 24 separate briefs in all. The overwhelming support includes 17 former and current members of Congress; Casey Family Programs, the Children’s Defense Fund, and 16 other child welfare organizations; the American Civil Liberties Union; broad coalitions of psychology associations, child advocates, and legal experts; adult Native American adoptees; and tribal amicus briefs which include 333 American Indian tribes.

“The broad base of support in this case is historic. In the history of the work of the Tribal Supreme Court Project, no Indian law case has generated more of a unified message to the Supreme Court about Indian law,” said Richard Guest, staff attorney for the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), noting the outpouring of interest and support for Veronica, the Brown family, and ICWA.

Many of the briefs highlight the findings of the South Carolina Family Court, which found that “the birth father is a fit and proper person to have custody of his child” who “has convinced [the Court] of his unwavering love for this child,” and were upheld by the South Carolina Supreme Court.

The amicus brief of the United States federal government emphasized the importance of ICWA, stating that “the United States has a substantial interest in the case because Congress enacted ICWA in furtherance of ‘the special relationship between the United States and the Indian tribes and their members and the Federal responsibility to Indian people.'” The brief further defends the constitutionality of ICWA, arguing that “ICWA, which is predicated on Congress’s considered judgment that application of its protections serves the best interests of Indian children and protects vital interests of their parents and Tribes, does not violate any substantive due process protections.” It concludes that “[t]he South Carolina courts properly awarded custody of Baby Girl to Father.”

In the brief of leading national child welfare organizations, the best interest of the child is highlighted, in addition to the value of ICWA.

No one understands the human toll custody disputes can take more than amici, 18 child welfare organizations who have dedicated literally scores of years to the on-the-ground development and implementation of best practices and policies for child placement decision making. Amici have seen up close what works, and what does not. In amici’s collective judgment, ICWA works very well and, in fact, is a model for child welfare and placement decision making that should be extended to all children. Much forward progress in the child welfare area would be damaged by rolling the law back.

A brief from Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne was joined by attorneys general from 17 other states—Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin— and argued against interference in the relationship between states and tribes in matters regarding ICWA, asserting, “States and tribes have collaborated to ensure that the mandates and spirit of ICWA are fulfilled…. Early and complete compliance with ICWA ensures the security and stability of adoptive families as well as tribes and Indian families.” The State of Minnesota Department of Human Services also filed a brief.

Not one state submitted briefs in support of Adoptive Couple.

“This brief includes nine Republican and nine Democrat attorneys general,” said John Dossett, National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) general counsel. “Party affiliation does not matter. The federal trust responsibility is a nonpartisan commitment, which includes support for the rights of American Indian families and tribal governments to protect their Indian children—and in this case, for a loving father to be with his daughter and for her to be with her family.”

Seventeen current and former members of Congress also reflected this bipartisan support, noting in their brief the circumstances that led to the enactment of ICWA in 1978, as well as asserting Congress’s exclusive power to legislate with respect to Indian tribes. It stated:

In 1978, Congress enacted ICWA in direct response to state adoption policies that were draining Indian tribes of their future citizens. Such practices threatened the very existence of Indian tribes. Without children to grow up as their citizens, tribes would be left with no one to speak their language, carry on their traditions and culture, or participate in their tribal governments…. Ultimately, any decision limiting Congress’s authority to pass legislation like ICWA…would effectively preclude Congress from exercising its plenary authority in Indian affairs, and render Congress unable to fulfill its historic duties as trustee to the Indian tribes.

Terry Cross, executive director of the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA), commended former Senator James Abourezk for taking the lead on the brief, stating, “Senator Abourezk sponsored the bill that became ICWA because he recognized that the widespread removal of Indian children from their homes was a continuation of forced assimilation practices that had no place in our society. His leadership today sends an unmistakable message that there is unified support in defending his law from those who would return to the pre-ICWA era.”

Two national tribal amicus briefs were submitted. The first, focused on the legislative history and importance of ICWA, was submitted by the Association on American Indian Affairs, NCAI, and NICWA, who were joined by 30 Indian tribes and five Indian organizations. A second national tribal amicus brief addresses the constitutional issues raised by the petitioners and also includes 24 tribal nations and organizations. The members of the Tribal Supreme Court Project—NARF and NCAI—in partnership with NICWA, joined together to organize the briefs in support of the father. In all, 333 tribes submitted briefs in support of the father.

Oral arguments for Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl will be held on April 16, with a decision expected shortly thereafter.

All of the briefs filed by supporters of Dusten Brown’s right to raise his daughter can be found at:

All filings for the case can be found at:

More information about the case can be found at:

ICWA Resource Page (NICWA)

NICWA  logoThe National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) offers a page of resources related to the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) at

The page includes:

Training Materials Available for Purchase (NICWA)

The National Indian Child Welfare Association offers a number of training materials for purchase. Visit to learn more and order materials.


Available curriculum include:

  • Module I: Basic Skills in Indian Child Welfare
  • Module I Trainer’s Guide
  • Module II: Protective Services for Indian Children
  • Module II Trainer’s Guide
  • Module III: Indian Extended Family and Foster Family Care
  • Module III Trainer’s Guide
  • Module IV: Family-Centered Services for Indian Children
  • Module IV Trainer’s Guide
  • Module V: Permanency Planning for Indian Children
  • Module V Trainer’s Guide
  • Training Issues and Methods in Indian Child Welfare: A Model for Trainers
  • Module I Exercise Packet
  • Module II Exercise Packet
  • Module III Exercise Packet
  • Module IV Exercise Packet
  • Module V Exercise Packet
  • Positive Indian Parenting: Honoring our Children by Honoring our Traditions
  • Our Children’s Future: A Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Curriculum for Native American Head Start Programs
  • Cross-Cultural Skills in Indian Child Welfare: A Guide for the Non-Indian
  • Grassroots Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect in Indian Communities: A Guide for the Community Organizer

Alaska Child Welfare Disproportionality Reduction Project

A collaboration between the National Indian Child Welfare Assocation the Western and Pacific Implementation Center (WPIC), and the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska and other tribes, this project addresses the systemic issues that exist in tribal child welfare between the State of Alaska and Alaska Native Tribes.  The four year initiative is designed to significantly reduce the disproportionate out-of-home placement of Alaska Native children by the state child welfare system.

Western and Pacific Child Welfare Implementation Center logo

According to the WPIC website, the project provides training, technical assistance and consultation to support the following initiatives:

  • Enhance Tribal capacity to provide in home services through on-site technical assistance. This included dialogue, problem solving, brainstorming, and product development with the AK tribal child welfare programs in the five regions of Alaska. The development of the Tribal In-Home Services Planning Template in each region, helped identify gaps and barriers in services to Alaska Native families and children. In addition, the template also assessed strategies for enhancing supports to ensure children and youth can remain safely in their homes.
  • Integrate Tribal values and principles into the Alaska Safety Assessment model.
  • Develop and implement of protocols for monitoring referrals to Tribal in-home services by the Alaska Office of Children’s Services (OCS).
  • Enhance tribal capacity to license resource families by creating and implementing Tribal licensing standards and procedures.
  • Conducting peer-to-peer training activities on cultural best practice for foster care licensing.
  • Increase Tribal child welfare capacity to work effectively with the courts by implementing trainings on court proceedings, presenting a case, acting as a witness, and writing court reports. An ongoing coaching approach was developed to continue to monitor and enhance court skills of Tribal child welfare staff.
  • Enhance the capacity for effective Tribal-State relations by building communication and problem solving skills through courageous conversations and ensuring there is ongoing dialogue and capacity for problem solving in ongoing working relationships.

Learn more at

March 18-19, 2013: NICWA Training Series (MN)

Organized by the National Indian Child Welfare Association, this is a professional development workshop series designed specifically for American Indian child welfare workers in reservation, urban, and rural settings.  It will be held in Minneapolis, MN on March 18-19, 2013.  Learn more and register at

This session will include the following three units:

Positive Indian Parenting

For years, Indian parents have been bombarded with the idea that using traditional methods of child rearing is not a good thing. Positive Indian Parenting reverses that concept. It revives traditional ways and provides a place for combining traditional and modern parenting methods.

This course will provide workers with information on how to organize and conduct parent 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 and worksheet packet are included in each participant’s course material.
Presenter: Ashley Kay Harding, Community Development Specialist

ICWA, Basic

This workshop is designed to give the participant an overview of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) and the practice issues involved in working with Indian families in child welfare. A brief history of Indian policy and ICWA, coupled with a brief summary of Indian cultural issues, set the stage for examination of specific implementation of ICWA. Implementation issues and methods for dealing with problem situations will be discussed. Recent and pending legislative proposals/actions will be summarized and examined for their implications for working with Indian families.
Presenter: Addie Smith, Government Affairs Associate

Understanding the Relational Worldview Model and Its Implications for Indigenous Social Work

his presentation examines an indigenous way of understanding the human experience including health and wellness in individuals, families, organizations and systems. The presenter will discuss how these concepts can be applied in social work, and in particular, child welfare in a post-colonial society. Applications to clinical practice, organizational development and health, leadership, research, systems change, and self-care will be reviewed. Participants will practice critical thinking skills using the model and will work in small teams to apply the model to the current challenges in their practice.
Presenter: Terry Cross, NICWA Executive Director

NICWA Job Postings

National Child Welfare AssociationSee current job opening at the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) at

In addition to current open positions, you can find information about the internship opportunities that NICWA has available.  NICWA accepts applications for volunteers or interns to work throughout the organization including membership relations, library science, media/communications, and event planning.  Find more information about internships at


Feb 13, 2013 Webinar: Understanding “Adoptive Parents v. Baby Girl”

Date: Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Time: 11 a.m. Pacific / 2 p.m. Eastern
Presenter: Adrian Smith, JD, MSW, NICWA government affairs associate

The U.S. Supreme Court will soon hear the case Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, a South Carolina adoption case involving the Indian Child Welfare Act. This high profile and emotionally charged case has garnered significant attention in the past year. Oral arguments are expected to occur in late April, and a decision announced shortly thereafter.

The National Indian Child Welfare Association will host a webinar for those interested in learning:

  • What are the background and facts of the case?
  • What are the questions before the U.S. Supreme Court?
  • What possible implications will this case have on Indian Country?
  • What is being done nationally in preparation for this hearing?

This free webinar is open to all. Register here.


April 2013 — 31st Annual Protecting Our Children National American Indian Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect

April 7-10, 2013
Tulsa, Oklahoma

Conference Goals

  • To highlight successful strategies for developing effective services
  • To reveal the latest and most innovative child and family service delivery practices
  • To highlight tactics and strategies for financing and sustaining services that impact children
  • To showcase strategies for involving youth and families in developing services and policies that lead to systems change
  • To create peer-to-peer networks that will assist each other in the work toward permanency for all American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) families
  • To share the latest research on the well-being of AI/AN children and effective child welfare and children’s mental health services, practices, and policies.

Learn more and register at the conference website: