The Biden Administration is seeking input from tribal leaders on the Indian Child Welfare Act and how the federal government can strengthen protections for Indigenous children and families.
A letter sent out this month by the Departments of Justice, the Interior and Health and Human Services announced two “tribal consultations” they will hold in August, as well as an opportunity to provide written comments to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The government agencies are seeking input on the following:
- 1. Additional support for tribal leaders to build their tribe’s capacity to exercise their rights and responsibilities under ICWA.
- 2. How the federal government could help state courts and child welfare agencies meet their ICWA obligations.
- 3. Aspects of ICWA where state courts and agencies need better understanding or greater capacity.
- 4. Existing collaborative partnerships or processes between states and tribes that have allowed for effective implementation of ICWA.
The administration’s effort to engage with tribes on strengthening federal protections for Indigenous families comes on the heels of last month’s surprise Supreme Court decision to uphold ICWA, the bedrock law enacted in 1978 to minimize undue separation among Native families and preserve children’s ties to their tribal communities.
The letter states that the three agencies “recognize the importance of the Indian Child Welfare Act” and notes that the Bureau of Indian Affairs is “working to promote the consistent application of ICWA.”
Several state legislatures have developed their own ICWA statutes, and the first ICWA-focused think tank was launched earlier this year to strategize protective policies. It’s safe to assume that this ongoing work will translate into an abundance of input in this multi-agency initiative.
The two scheduled tribal consultations will take place both virtually and in person in Anchorage, Alaska in August, with additional consultations to be scheduled. Written comments can be submitted via email by Sept. 15 to [email protected]. More details on how to provide input or attend the consultation sessions are available in the letter.