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The purpose of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is "...to protect the best interest of Indian Children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families by the establishment of minimum Federal standards for the removal of Indian children and placement of such children in homes which will reflect the unique values of Indian culture... "(25 U.S. C. 1902). ICWA provides guidance to States regarding the handling of child abuse and neglect and adoption cases involving Native children and sets minimum standards for the handling of these cases.
We have an active and dedicated ICWA Case Worker at PIA. Kara Wesebaum works diligently with families to ensure ICWA law is followed for the best interest of our children.
What Does This Mean for Families?
Participation in active efforts. Tribes may participate in providing active efforts to prevent the breakup of the Indian family. The rule provides that, to the maximum extent possible, active efforts should be conducted in partnership with the Indian child’s Tribe (as well as the parents and others). Before ordering an involuntary foster care placement or termination of parental rights (TPR), the court must conclude that active efforts have been made to prevent the breakup of the Indian family and those efforts have been unsuccessful. The court will also require active efforts to be documented in detail in the record.
Examples of active efforts include:
• Identifying, notifying, and inviting representatives of the Indian child’s Tribe to participate in providing support and services to the Indian child’s family and in family team meetings, permanency planning, and resolution of placement issues;
• Offering and employing all available and culturally appropriate family preservation strategies and facilitating the use of remedial and rehabilitative services provided by the child’s Tribe.
Qualified expert witnesses. The court will order foster-care placement or TPR only if certain standards of evidence are met, including the testimony of qualified expert witness(es). You, as the Indian child’s Tribe, may designate an individual as being qualified to testify to the prevailing social and cultural standards of the Indian child’s Tribe. The court or any party may request your assistance in locating persons qualified to serve as expert witnesses.
Right to examine documents. The rule provides that each party to an emergency proceeding or a foster-care-placement or termination-of-parental-rights proceeding under State law involving an Indian child has a right to timely examine all reports and other documents filed or lodged with the court upon which any decision with respect to such action may be based. In addition, Tribes are sovereign entities that have concurrent jurisdiction over child-custody proceedings, and they should have the ability to review documents relevant to those proceedings. State agencies must share records with Tribal agencies that are parties to childcustody cases as they would other parties and governmental entities.
Right to request access accommodations. You have the right to request the court to allow alternative methods of participation in State-court child-custody proceedings involving an Indian child, such as participation by telephone, videoconferencing, or other methods.
To find out more information check out the Bureau of Indian Affairs website.
Petersburg Indian Association
P.O. Box 1410, Petersburg, AK 99833, US
Phone (907) 772-3636 Fax (907) 772-3637
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