Bill to codify the federal Indian Child Welfare Act into state law an important step, say advocates
A bill to protect Native American children so they can remain within their tribal communities and extended families will be pre-filed in the state Legislature in January, supporters say.
The bill, still in draft form, will codify the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) into state law if it’s passed by the state Legislature next year. The U.S. Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act into law in 1978 but it is too often not enforced, according to experts working on the state law.
Because of implicit bias against Native Americans, Native children are often removed from the home when a white child in an identical situation is not, said Donalyn Sarracino, director of Tribal Affairs for the Office of the Secretary for Child, Youth and Families Department and of the Pueblo of Acoma.
She said this is a national problem and that, in some cases, the rate of removals of Native children from their families is sometimes four times higher than white children removals.
“(Native) children are removed for reasons white children might not be removed,” Sarracino said.
Jacqueline Yalch, President of New Mexico Tribal Indian Child Welfare Consortium and of the Isleta Pueblo, said that often, tribal communities are seen “as unfit to raise our children.”
The consortium formed in 2015 to address this issue.
DAWNLAND (86 min)
For decades, child welfare authorities have been removing Native American children from their homes. DAWNLAND goes behind-the-scenes as this historic body grapples with difficult truths, redefines reconciliation, and charts a new course for state and tribal relations.