ICWA- What does it mean? The answer is “Indian Child Welfare Act”
This act/law was put into place in 1978, and it governs the practices and procedures of the state juvenile courts, state social services, and private adoption agencies in this country. Prior to 1978, a large number of Indian children were being removed from their homes, and their tribes without the appreciation of their cultural, or traditional child rearing practices. Congress declared policy for this Nation to protect the best interest of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of the Indian tribes and families. This law set a minimum standard for the removal of Indian children from their families and put into, preferably a “Relative placement”, which will reflect the values of our indigenous culture.
ICWA is applied to the four separate proceedings:
- Foster Care Placement – which is the removing of an Indian Child from their parents or Indian Custodian for temporary placement in a foster home, institutions, or the home of a guardian/conservator, where the parent or custodian can’t have the child returned upon demand, where the parental rights have not been terminated.
- Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) – which means any action resulting in the terminations of the child/parent relationship.
- Pre-adoptive Placement – which means temporary placement of the child in a foster home or institution after a TPR but prior to an adoption.
- Adoptive Placement – means the permanent place of the child for adoption, including any action resulting in a final decree of adoption.
ICWA doesn’t apply to the following proceedings:
- Divorce Proceeding – custodial disputes between the natural parents of the child, even if the child is Native American.
- Interfamily Disputes – if a non-parent of the child is awarded custody in a divorce or similar proceeding, the provision of the act might be triggered. Triggered means a child protection case is either already open or maybe opened. ICWA in this example is applied to a parent who was awarded custody in a divorce attempts to terminate parental rights of the non-custodial parent for the purpose of step-parent adoption or if a non-parent applies to a court for guardianship of the child against the wishes of the natural parents.
- Delinquency Proceedings – if a child commits an act that would be deemed criminal if committed by an adult. The exception to this rule is truancies.
- Voluntary Placements – this includes placements for educational or religious placements. E.g. boarding schools, this is not to be confused with voluntary foster home placements, which are clearly governed by ICWA.
- Judicially Created Exceptions – This area of the act is in a state of flux and is applied cautiously by individual states. Mostly it applies to custody issue of Native American Children for adoption by non-native person(s) and there are no child protection issues. It’s advised to refer to the state court decisions to determine if ICWA applies to particular situations.
In conclusion, how does this apply to you?
Lower Sioux Social Services was a major participant in the most recent Tribal/State Agreement renegotiation; signed last March 2007 at the Minnesota State Capitol. The T/S Agreement applies these rules to Minnesota State Judicial systems & State Social Service Manual, insuring that these systems comply with federal law. This law insures Native family rights are being addressed and insures Native self-determination is promoted through the use of the Indian Child Welfare Act and the Lower Sioux Tribal Court system.
If you have questions or need additional information about Indian Child Welfare, please contact us.
Lower Sioux Social Services & ICWA Center
P.O. Box 308
Morton, MN 56270
Phone (507) 697-6199
Fax (507) 697-6198