INDIAN CHILD WELFARE – (ICW)
The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) (25 U.S.C. § 1901 et. Seq.) is a Federal law that governs the jurisdiction over adoption and custody of American Indian children.
ICWA was originally enacted by Congress in 1978 due to the high removal rate of Indian children from their traditional homes and essentially from Indian culture as a whole. Before the bill was enacted, as many as 25 to 35 percent of all Indian children were being removed from their Indian homes and placed in non-Indian homes, with presumably the absence of Indian culture. If Indian children continued to be removed from Indian homes at this rate, true Native American Tribal survival would continue to be threatened. The children were being raised outside of Indian culture and soon would cease to be known as true Indians. Instead, they would be known as assimilated into other non-Indian cultures.
Indian children were also not being placed in conducive Indian cultural environments due to the inability of the social workers to place them in homes that were economically stable in accordance with the state regulations. In addition to that, many Indian parents were being taken advantage of because they lacked adequate legal representation in child custody proceedings and were unknowingly convinced to waive their parental rights.
ICWA gives tribal governments a strong voice concerning child custody proceedings which involve Indian children by allocating tribes sole jurisdiction over the case when the child is domiciled on the reservation; on the reservation; and concurrent, but presumptive, jurisdiction over non-reservation Native Americans’ custody proceedings.
ICWA sets the minimal Federal standards for nearly all Indian child custody proceedings, including adoption, voluntary and involuntary termination of parental rights, and removal and foster care placement of Indian children, but excluding divorce and child delinquency proceedings. ICWA states that state courts have no jurisdiction over the adoption or custody of Indian children residing within their own tribal reservation. Ref: Page 196, Section 1903 defines Indian child as “any unmarried person who is under age eighteen and is either (a) a member of an Indian tribe or (b) is eligible for membership in an Indian tribe and is the biological child of a member of an Indian tribe.
If anyone is interested in finding more information about the Kaw Indian Child Welfare Program, please call 580-269-2003.