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ICWA Compliance

The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978 is Federal law that governs the removal and out-of-home placement of American Indian children. The law was enacted after recognition by the Federal Government that American Indian children were being removed from their homes and communities at a much higher rate than non-Native children. ICWA established standards for the placement of Indian children in foster and adoptive homes and enabled Tribes and families to be involved in child welfare cases.

ICWA Compliance Resources:

  • Measuring Compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act: An Assessment Toolkit

    The NCJFCJ is committed to helping state courts achieve full ICWA compliance. A new resource is now available to the courts (or Court Improvement Programs) to help achieve this goal. Measuring Compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act: An Assessment Toolkit, provides concrete tools and recommendations for the state courts to assess their current compliance with ICWA. The Toolkit identifies strengths and weaknesses of different data collection approaches, provides sample tools or questions for the sites, and identifies resources and examples of putting this into practice. If you have any questions or would like additional information about measuring ICWA compliance in your jurisdiction, you can e-mail the research team at

  • Existing Information on Implementation Issues Could Be Used to Target Guidance and Assistance to States - GAO-05-290, Apr 4, 2005
    In the 1960s and 1970s, American Indian children were about six times more likely to be placed in foster care than other children and many were placed in non-American Indian homes or institutions. In 1978, the Congress enacted the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) to protect American Indian families and to give tribes a role in making child welfare decisions for children subject to ICWA.
    GAO-05-290 FULL REPORT
  • The ICWA Expert Witness
    This resource is the 2007 PowerPoint slides written by Margaret A. Burt, Esq. presenting quality evidence to protect the best interests of Indian children.
  • Video from the December 2011 Lead Judges Meeting: "The History and Spirit of ICWA"
    This video, “The History and Spirit of ICWA,” provides juvenile and family courts with historical context of Native Americans and child welfare.  The goals of this video is to provoke discussion and to further the court’s understanding of why it is critical to ask if there is any Native American heritage at every hearing even if you know the family history.

  • Indian Child Welfare Act Checklists for Juvenile and Family Court Judges
    Provides benchcard checklists for use by judges and child welfare professionals in the implementation of the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act.

  • Improving Compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act: A Guide for Juvenile and Family Courts
    This technical assistance bulletin provides juvenile and family courts with practice recommendations and tools to improve compliance with the letter of the ICWA as well as with the “spirit of the ICWA” through services and supports. The first, most critical and ongoing step is to develop respectful and authentic relationships with tribes to fully implement the ICWA and best serve Native children. Following the development of relationships, courts should collaborate to examine practice, build understanding through training, develop an action plan, and monitor the action plan to ensure accountability and progress. Judges and child welfare workers must commit to a course of action that is inclusive of tribal voices and that leads to real and sustainable change for Native children and families. The NCJFCJ can assist courts in achieving full ICWA compliance.

  • Disproportionality Rates for Children of Color in Foster Care 2013 Technical Assistance Bulletin
    Since 2011, the NCJFCJ has published Disproportionality Rates for Children of Color in Foster Care Technical Assistance Bulletins, which identify the disproportionality rates for all state and select Model Courts across the Country. The reports have gained national attention and have been used in a number of ways by a broad spectrum of stakeholders and interested parties. Due to the ongoing need for dialogue surrounding the most currently available statistics on disproportionality, the NCJFCJ has published an updated Disproportionality Rates for Children of Color in Foster Care Technical Assistance Bulletin. This Bulletin, released May 2013, utilizes the most current (2011) Adoption and Foster Care Reporting System (AFCARS) data and 2011 census data estimates to calculate current disproportionality indexes for every state and select Model Courts across the country. The Bulletin makes comparisons between 2000 and 2011 disproportionality rates to illustrate changes that have occurred in the last decade regarding overrepresentation of children of color in the foster care system and illustrates the differences in disproportionality rates (when data are available) between the Model Courts and their respective states.

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