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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Resolutions FAVORING Indian Child Welfare Act


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Here is the resolution adopted unanimously by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges board:

RESOLUTION IN SUPPORT OF FULL IMPLEMENTATION OF THE INDIAN CHILD WELFARE ACT

WHEREAS, with the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978, Congress declared that there is no resource that is more vital to the continued existence and integrity of Indian tribes than their children and that the United States has a direct interest, as trustee, in protecting Indian children who are members of or are eligible for membership in an Indian tribe;

and

WHEREAS, Congress found that an alarmingly high percentage of Indian families are broken up by the removal, often unwarranted, of their children from them by nontribal public and private agencies and that an alarmingly high percentage of such children are placed in non-Indian foster and adoptive homes and institutions; and

WHEREAS, Indian children are over represented in the foster care system; and

WHEREAS, Congress noted that the States, exercising their recognized jurisdiction over Indian child custody proceedings through administrative and judicial bodies, have often failed to recognize the essential tribal relations of Indian people and the cultural and social standards prevailing in Indian communities and families; and

WHEREAS, a renewed commitment to full implementation of the Indian Child Welfare Act will result in the preservation of the rights, culture, connections, and traditions of Indian children and
their families.

WHEREAS, full implementation of the Indian Child Welfare Act requires inquiry into the child’s Indian ancestry, notice to tribes, active efforts to provide remedial services and rehabilitative programs designed to prevent the breakup of the Indian family, a high standard of proof based on testimony of a qualified expert witness before removal or termination of parental rights, and placement preferences with Indian families or other tribal families, and provisions for exclusive tribal jurisdiction and intervention.

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED AS FOLLOWS:

That the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) believes that full implementation of the Indian Child Welfare Act should be a priority for all state courts;

That NCJFCJ encourages states to adopt ICWA in its entirety in state law;

That NCJFCJ encourages all judges to receive training on the ICWA, including the effects of historical trauma, and the effects of separation from family, culture and tradition;

That NCJFCJ encourages state Court Improvement Programs to work in meaningful collaboration with tribes to develop strategic plans to effect full implementation of the Act,including data collection to track progress;

That NCJFCJ encourages courts to develop statutes and court rules to enable and welcome tribal attorneys and qualified expert witnesses in other states to appear in court on behalf of the tribe, allowing and providing for telephonic appearance when needed;

That NCJFCJ commits to working closely with state courts, Indian tribes, and tribal organizations to achieve full implementation of the Act and track progress of that implementation.

 Adopted by the NCJFCJ Board of Trustees during their Annual Meeting, July 13, 2013, Seattle, Washington.
 
And here is a draft resolution up for consideration at the American Bar Association later this summer:
 
 
 

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Indian Country is under attack. Native tribes and people are fighting hard for justice. There is need for legal assistance across Indian Country, and NARF is doing as much as we can. With your help, we have fought for 48 years and we continue to fight.

It is hard to understand the extent of the attacks on Indian Country. We are sending a short series of emails this month with a few examples of attacks that are happening across Indian Country and how we are standing firm for justice.

Today, we look at recent effort to undo laws put in place to protect Native American children and families. All children deserve to be raised by loving families and communities. In the 1970s, Congress realized that state agencies and courts were disproportionately removing American Indian and Alaska Native children from their families. Often these devastating removals were due to an inability or unwillingness to understand Native cultures, where family is defined broadly and raising children is a shared responsibility. To stop these destructive practices, Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

After forty years, ICWA has proven to be largely successful and many states have passed their own ICWAs. This success, however, is now being challenged by large, well-financed opponents who are actively and aggressively seeking to undermine ICWA’s protections for Native children. We are seeing lawsuits across the United States that challenge ICWA’s protections. NARF is working with partners to defend the rights of Native children and families.

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