Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)
What is ICWA?
ICWA is a federal law created in 1978 to keep Native children with Native Families and to protect the best interests of Native children. The APIA program responds to inquiries received from various state and local social service agencies about minors who are affiliated with any of the twelve (12) specific Tribes in the region represented by the Association.
Who is an Indian child?
Under ICWA, a child is considered Alaska Native or American Indian if he or she has a mother or father who is a member of a tribe. The child must also be a member of a tribe or be eligible for membership.
Why is the law only for Alaska Native/American Indian children?
History tells us why…tribes are sovereign nations. The United States government has a unique political relationship with Alaska Native/American Indian nations through treaties that it does not have with any other people in the country.
Why was the law passed?
Countless Alaska Native and American Indian children have been removed from their families and tribes. Boarding schools run by the government and other groups kept school-age children away from their native homes. Many Alaska Native and American Indian children lost their traditions and rich culture and experiences serious problems later in life.
How does the law work?
ICWA requires that every effort be made to try to keep families together. If removal is necessary, “active efforts” must be made to bring the family back together. This means that everything possible must be done to help the family resolve the problems that led to neglect or abuse, including referral to services that are sensitive to the family’s traditional culture.
If the child is removed, ICWA requires that child welfare agencies (such as the State) actively seek to place a child with (1) relatives, (2) a tribal family, or (3) an Alaska Native/American Indian family, BEFORE placing the child in a non-native home.
We provide home visits and referral services to children and families identified as at-risk, arrange visitation of minors and biological parents as well as transportation for visitation, if needed. In addition, we provide families with information on the various services available to them, i.e., parenting skills training, behavior management, other support services, etc. In addition, we assist families with:
- Referrals to related and/or other resources
- Collaborate with referring/partner agencies
- Communicate with tribal workers and/or Community Protection Team (CPT) in assessing and developing a safety plan
- Provide follow up and monitoring services
- Assess progress to determine status and revise service plan, when needed
Who Do We Serve?
- APIA’s ICWA Program acts as the Tribal Representative on behalf of the Tribes in the region for their children by intervening when families are involved with child protection services.
- APIA’s ICWA Program represents Tribal children for the following Tribes:
Agdaagux Tribal Council | Akutan Tribal Council | Atka IRA Council | Belkofski Tribal Council | False Pass Tribal Council | Nelson Lagoon Tribal Council | Nikolski IRA Council | Pauloff Harbor Tribe | Qagan Tayagungin Tribe of Sand Point | Qawalangin Tribe of Unalaska | St. George Island Traditional Council | Unga Tribal Council
How can YOU protect YOUR children?
Alaska Native and American Indian families should notify the social worker or child protection worker, as soon as possible, that they are enrolled members of a tribe, or identify which tribe their child may be eligible for membership or enrollment.
It is important to keep papers that may prove tribal membership or eligibility for tribal membership in a safe place. These papers may include: enrollment numbers and Certificates of Indian Blood (CIBs); census numbers or blood quantum cards; and birth certificates with the mother’s and father’s name listed. Other things that may help include a family tree or a genealogy record.
What about legal advice?
If a petition for removal of a child from a home has been filed in state court, a parent or a guardian has the right to a court appointed attorney if he or she cannot afford one.