The Minnesota Public Health Association (MPHA) stands in support of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), and its purpose "...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. It is also critical to rear children within their own communities as they are the future of protecting native government, language, and culture.
ICWA was enacted in 1978, less than a decade after studies from the Association on American Indian Affairs found that 25 to 35 percent of all Native children had been removed from their families and placed in foster homes, with non-Native parents nine out of 10 times. This contributed to the already devastating legacy of Indian boarding schools, where generations of Native children were removed from their homes and communities and sent to boarding schools across the country, with the intent of eliminating their languages, cultures, and family and community ties.
When Congress enacted ICWA, it allowed tribes to alter the order of placement preferences that would protect the heritage and culture of Native American children. The implementation of the ICWA has promoted the protection of Native American children by requiring higher levels of parental engagement and has encouraged efforts to keep families together. These measures help reduce the trauma a child may experience when they are placed in foster care, and by helping the child maintain their culture, they are more likely to be resilient and to be able to create a deep bond with their family.
The Biden administration, like past administrations of both political parties, is defending the law. Citing a string of precedents dating back to the early days of the republic, the government says that ICWA draws classifications based not on race but on connections to tribal groups. And under the Constitution, those tribal groups are separate sovereign nations, essentially a political group.
MPHA strongly supports the ICWA law based on historic precedence, and because tribal nations are sovereign and should be trusted to take care of their own children in order to support their indigenous culture. MPHA, further advocates for children and support that tribal communities receive the child welfare financial support that is available.
- Affairs, B. of I. (n.d.). Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Indian Affairs. https://www.bia.gov/bia/ois/dhs/icwa
- Martin, N. (2022, October 1). Can Indian Country withstand the new Supreme Court? High Country News. https://www.hcn.org/issues/54.10/indigenous-affairs-law-can-indian-country-withstand-the-new-supreme-court
- Kennard, A. (2022, November 9). The Indian Child Welfare Act: What it is and what's at stake. Native News Online. https://nativenewsonline.net/sovereignty/the-indian-child-welfare-act-purpose-and-what-s-at-stake
- Totenberg, N. (2022, November 8). Supreme Court considers fate of landmark Indian adoption law. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2022/11/08/1134668931/supreme-court-icwa
- Herrera, A. (2018, March 5). Who can adopt a Native child? High Country News. https://www.hcn.org/issues/50.7/tribal-affairs-who-can-adopt-a-native-child