When children are in danger, judges must decide where and with whom they will live, making rulings that could affect the children for life.
When Native American children are involved, the legal situation is more complex. In addition to state law, the federal Indian Child Welfare Act must be applied, and the child’s tribe is part of the decision making.
At any given time, the number of Native American children in Montana’s foster care system is much higher than their 10 percent share of the total child population would suggest.
In Yellowstone County last year, 43 percent of the 550 civil child abuse and neglect cases filed involved children who are tribal members or eligible for membership. But there hasn’t been court resources dedicated specifically to improving outcomes for ICWA children — until now.
READ: Gazette opinion: Bringing Indian foster kids home | Editorial | billingsgazette.com