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Understanding the Indian Child
Welfare Act (ICWA)




The federal government created the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) to strengthen tribal authority over the adoption of Native American children. This class covers the nuts and bolts of the legislation and its applications to key issues, such as custody, adoption and divorce. We’ll also explore what the BIA’s 2015 revised guidelines say about how to determine whether a child is an Indian child, identify the child’s tribe, and notify the parent and tribe, as well as what “active efforts” to prevent the breakup of Indian families means practically.

Through interactive exercises, you’ll have the opportunity to evaluate a case for application of the law. And with our ICWA expert instructor, you’ll examine the legal, practical and moral considerations in court cases. You’ll also learn what happens when the law requires that a child be returned to an unhealthy family situation, what happens when parents change their minds in “giving up” their children and options available when dealing with teen pregnancy and adoption.

T O P I C S   I N C L U D E
Indian Child Welfare Act
  • Overview and purpose
  • Legal duty of the U.S. to preserve tribal families
  • States and use of one-size-fits-all approaches to child protection
  • The ICWA concept of the “best interest of the child”
ICWA and Its Application
  • Enrollment — Who is an Indian child?
  • The federal recognition requirement
  • Defining “Indian Country” for purposes of the Act
State Duty
  • Jurisdiction
  • Intervention
  • New case law pertinent to P.L. 280 states
Application
  • Notice and time to prepare
  • The right to counsel and to examine all reports and documents
  • Level of tribal control
  • Placement priorities
  • Preliminary proceedings
  • Assessing the appropriate placement of an Indian child during preliminary procedures
Custody and Adoption
  • Return of custody
  • Safety issues
  • State’s obligation to the tribe
  • Tribe’s obligation to the child and family
  • Foster care
  • Improper removal
Termination of Parental Rights
  • The standard of proof
  • Why BARD?
  • The burden of proof
  • The qualified expert witness
  • Active efforts to reunify the Indian family
  • Holding the state accountable
  • Holding the tribe accountable

Voluntary Termination of Parental Rights and Guardianship
  • Comparing state adoption laws to ICWA
  • Placement evaluation
  • Certifying qualifications for adoption of Indian children — factors to consider
  • Teen pregnancy and adoption options
  • Special needs children
  • Preserving the child’s Indian identity
  • Conflict of laws — parents’ right to change their minds
  • The role of the tribe
  • Familial placement
  • Divorce
Is ICWA the Model for Child Welfare?
  • Solutions ICWA creates
  • ICWA pitfalls

*Topics subject to change.

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