Indian Child Welfare Act

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The Policy Establishing Fostering Connections for Indian American Children

The policy was established with an aim of addressing the widespread detachment of Native/Indian American children from their tribe and families. The policy gives the tribes a chance to intervene in state proceedings by notifying the respective tribes whenever indigenous children are put in foster care systems and the placement preferences for the children are normally given to the tribal families or the extended families.

The Extent and Impact of Native/Indian American Children Detachment

The number of native/Indian Americans who experience this problem is estimated to be about 40% and almost 25%-35% of all Indian American youngsters were being detached from their families. Among the separated children, it was also estimated that 85% were being placed in families which were not their own or from their tribes. This is a problem that is likely to affect Indian Americans, Alaska Native children, tribes and families. Here the children are detached from their families by private adoption agencies and the state children welfare, (Fort & Smith, 2018). The problem was very widespread in areas occupied by Native Americans especially Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas among others, these were among the common areas where the practice of children separation was being practiced.

The Social Reason for the Detachment of Native/Indian American Children

The social reason for the separation from their families and tribes was mainly for assimilation. In the 19th and the 20th centuries, Indian residential schools were established with a primary goal of assimilating the Indian American children, (Elder, 2017). The separation led to several negative results, for example, the native children lost their identity, some of the children who were separated from their families were very young and when taken to the Native American Boarding Schools where they were forced to accept Christianity, clearly losing their Identity, they did not know where they came from, their parents or even their tribe. Immense pain and intergenerational trauma was another result that was experienced by the families that had their children taken away, this caused wounds that might never heal in the hearts of the affected families. This was a single cause since it was only the separation of the children that was being witnessed though it led to several consequences which were devastating. These multiple consequences that resulted from the single cause include; formation of organization that stood and fought for the rights of the children being separated from their families, the Native children lost their identity and could not tell their origin and the last consequence that was caused was the irreversible trauma and pain that was faced by the affected families and respective tribes, (Halverson et al., 2002). Policymakers define it as genocide since they were separating children from a specific tribe and children are the once forming the future generations thus by taking them away and assimilating them to new cultures were similar to killing the Indian American generation.

Eligibility and Coverage of the Policy

The policy covers Indian American children, who are eligible for enrollment or are already enrolled in a tribe and have at least one of the parents being a member of the Indian community. The act also covers three other individuals, the first party covered is the custodial parent of any Indian child whenever they are accused of any wrongdoings, the second party covered is the Indian custodians, these are people who have raised a relatives child as their own or the individuals who are given temporary custody by the child's parents, and lastly the act covers the tribal rights, (Hodge, 2016). On the other hand, the policy targets private adoption agencies and the state children welfare since these are the main organizations that were found having tendencies of separating Indian children from their tribes and assigning them to other families, not of their tribes or extended families. The policy is very strict on those organizations basically managed and headed by the white Americans thus making then the main target section of the targeted population.

Implementation and Placement Considerations

The policy offers employment opportunities, some in-kind economic services, and some finances are provided to the families and homes where the children are placed. To gain such opportunities the children are placed in homes and families which are not from their tribes. In implementing the policy no placement is made with (i) an active effort to maintain the families by rehabilitation and remedial services premeditated to preclude the breakup of Native families. And (ii) convincing and appropriate substantiation that the continued guardianship by the parents may lead to serious somatic or emotive damage to the children. In implementing foster placement the following must be looked up into; for the children to be put in a foster home, the foster home must be permitted by an Indian certifying body. In adoptive preference placement, an extended family member must be considered or affiliates of the juvenile's tribe or another Native family is given the second priority, (Turner, 2015).

Goals and Objectives of the Policy

The main goals and objectives of the act include; achieving recognition of tribal sovereignty, this is manifested in the fact that the tribal courts are in the best position to make appropriate judgments concerning the Indian American children. Preservation of the Indian families, it reflects in the provision of active efforts to keep intact Indian American families, another objective is to maintain the tribal and family connectedness, this is done by the placement preferences of which all the Indian children must be placed within their tribes or extended families, (Tompkins et al., 2016). The converts goals and objectives that are not very different from the main objectives of the act since the results which are obtained are the same. Some of their objectives and goals included the following; to be able to safeguard the interest of the Native juvenile and the native children from being detached from their tribes and families but to ensure they are placed in their relatives or an Indian family which could understand and promote the Indian culture. Another objective was to see that the parents were given the rights to know the ware bouts of their children and avoid being in the dark about the information regarding their own children. The policy's goals have effect on the redistribution of government resources such as income opportunities, entitlement rewards opportunities among others since the courts would order some of these resources more so finances would be directed to the Indian tribe since they were the likely ones to get custody of the Indian children, the right and status would be taken away from the non-native Americans and would be felt in the Indian community and the foster homes where the Indian children would be placed, (Jones et al., 2008)

Impact and Effectiveness of the Policy

According to the lawmakers, the theory of change affected the target population greatly, the target population experienced reduced distribution of resources because the income opportunities will be provided to the Indian communities, to enable them to take care of the needs of the adopted children. The goals of the policy contributed positively to social relations since it brought an end to the animosity that was between the Indian Americans and the non-native Americans, Indian Americans were happy since they had the chance to be connected with their children, (Salinas, 2014).

Values and Vision Reflected in the Policy

The act contained some very important values like; shaping the legal implementation of Indian children rights, fostering tribal identity and the entitlements of the Indian children, it fostered the unification of families and tribes by ensuring that the Indian children were placed in their tribes and fitting environment, just to mention a few. The American Indians /Native Americans are viewed as a marginalized community being misruled by the dominant tribe, in referring to the policy they are also viewed as a minority group who are at the verge of extinction but are only protected by the policy. The main social vision in the policy is to ensure that the Indian child gets the best care that will enhance both their cultural and closeness to their cultures and ways of life. The policy represents a radical departure of the status quo since things were never going to be the same again, the Indian Americans were able to have their rights respected and they have also had a place where their grievances are heard. The major beneficiary of this policy is the Indian American community, especially the children who will be able to gain tribal identity; this makes their interest the main factor in the policy. The policy is basically meant to enhance real social change since it promotes the respect of some of the minority groups and especially those of the children, thus promoting effective social change.

Intended and Unintended Effects of the Policy

Some of the intended effects to the Indian Americans include; to be able to get records pertaining to the placement of the Indian child and to have the necessary information about Indian children tribal identity preserved and protected by the law. One of the most important intended effects was for the Indian tribe to be able to establish a child welfare program which assisted in stopping the separation and fought for their rights. Some of the unintended effects of the policy to the target population includes them being viewed as a self-centered majority who do not care about the rights of the minority amongst them another unintended effect includes them being seen as the majority who are very aggressive to see the extinct of another tribe so as to dominate the country by themselves. The general population is affected in a very positive way because they are able to achieve the following; to receive information and notice regarding an Indian/Native child placed in foster homes, the population is also able to receive tribal identity and most importantly they are able to have their families intact and not separated.


Without the policy the Indian American tribe would have been extinct by now since the rate of assimilation was very high, the policy has enhanced the connectedness of the Indian American tribe above all it has also helped and assisted the enhancement of the positive social relations between the non-native Americans and the Indian Americans.


Elder, A. K. (2017). Indian as a Political Classification Reading the Tribe Back into the Indian Child Welfare Act. Nw. JL & Soc. Pol'y, 13, 417.

Fort, K., & Smith, A. T. (2018). Indian Child Welfare Act Annual Case Law Update and Commentary. American Indian Law Journal, 6(2), 2.

Halverson, K., Puig, M. E., & Byers, S. R. (2002). Culture Loss: American Indian Family Disruption, Urbanization and the Indian Child Welfare Act. Child Welfare, 81(2).

Hodge, C. (2016). Is the Indian Child Welfare Act Losing Steam: Narrowing Non-Custodial Parental Rights after Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl. Colum. J. Race & L., 7, 191.

Jones, B. J., Tilden, M., & Gaines-Stoner, K. (2008). The Indian Child Welfare Act handbook: A legal guide to the custody and adoption of Native American children. American Bar Association.

Mannes, M. (1995). Factors and events leading to the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act. Child Welfare, 74(1), 264.

Salinas, E. (2014). The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978: Communication and Collaboration Between Tribes and the County. The benefits scholars receive by participating in research include gains in their ability to explain, present, discuss, and defend their work to advisors, other faculty, and their peers. Being a McNair scholar also strengthens the students’ sense of belonging as an academic professional and awareness of their ability to obtain greater academic achievement., 117.

Sweeney, K. A., & Pollack, R. L. (2017). Colorblind Individualism, Color Consciousness, and the Indian Child Welfare Act: Representations of Adoptee Best Interest in Newspaper Coverage of the Baby Veronica Case. The Sociological Quarterly, 58(4), 701-720.

Tompkins, J. D., Summers Ph D, A., Rosen, M. S. W., LGSW, J. E., Cain, J. D., Shirley, M., ... & Harris, L. (2016). What is Measured is What is Done: Methods to Measure Compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act. American Indian Law Journal, 4(2), 8.

Turner, C. M. (2015). Implementing and defending the indian child welfare act through revised state requirements. Colum. JL & Soc. Probs., 49, 501.

November 13, 2023

Child Development

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Child Abuse

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