The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 is 40 years old. Congress likely had good intentions when it was persuaded by tribal leaders that too many Indian children were being adopted away by non-Indian families, and too many Indians were leaving reservations.
So Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) transferring away the parental rights of enrolled tribal parents to the tribal government. ICWA was intended as a tool to help tribes rescue children from dysfunctional or abuse homes. ICWA looks to the best interest of the tribal government; not the best interest of the child. ICWA provides requirements for family reunification when addictions or abusive behavior has been resolved. Unfortunately, ICWA is more often used for harmful purposes, such as:
1. Punishing tribal parents who openly disagree with a tribal government policy or issue;
2. Building child caseloads to secure ample and annual funding for tribal child and social services.
ICWA has been largely, across the country, devastating for tribal families who lack civil rights, are caught in questionable, even “kangaroo” tribal courts. Some families never see their children again, once taken so there is suspicion that some tribes are using ICWA as a child-trafficking tool.
Please watch the story of one very courageous father, on the link below. Across the country, there are legal cases moving forward, and additional evidence coming forward to either have Congress repeal ICWA or a Court rule that ICWA is unconstitutional. After you watch this video, please share this information and link with friends and family, as you feel comfortable.
Elaine Willman, MPA, served from 2002 – 2007 as National Chair of Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA) an organization of community education groups and citizens in 25 states who reside within or near federally recognized Indian reservations. She is a retired career municipal administrator, pursuing a doctoral in federal Indian policy and author of Going to Pieces: The Dismantling of the United States of America (2005) and Slumbering Thunder: A Primer for Confronting the Spread of Federal Indian Policy and Tribalism Overwhelming America (2016). Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.