Working Effectively with Tribal Governments

Federal Indian Law and Policy

Child Welfare laws

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The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) governs "child custody proceedings" (adoption, termination of parental rights, foster care, and pre-adoptive placements) when the child is an Indian, and sets national standards and procedures which must be followed. The Act establishes tribal authority over such proceedings, and allows placement cases involving Indian children to be heard in tribal courts, if possible, but, if heard in state court, permits a child's tribe to be involved in proceedings for adoptions, foster care placements and termination of parental rights. If a child is facing foster care or adoption in state court, the Act requires that preference be given to placing Indian children with extended family members, other tribal members or other Indian families. The Act applies to all Indian children who are members of federally recognized tribes or are eligible for membership. (25 U.S.C. 1901-1963)

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