November 27, 2018

Lawmakers Introduce Bipartisan Resolution Recognizing the 40th Anniversary of the Indian Child Welfare Act

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.), vice chairman and chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, respectively, along with U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and U.S. Representatives Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and Tom Cole (R-Okla.), led 46 members of Congress in introducing a bipartisan resolution commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), and recognizing its importance to promoting the stability and security of Tribal communities and families. 

ICWA sets best-practice standards for child welfare and adoption proceedings involving children who are members of a federally-recognized Tribe or are eligible for membership in a federally-recognized Tribe. It was designed to respond to the disproportionately high number of Native children who were unnecessarily removed from their families. When the law was first enacted in 1978, one-third of all Native children in the U.S. were placed in foster care or adoptive homes by child welfare systems unfamiliar with tribal child rearing practices, resulting in generations of displaced Native children. Over four decades, the law has become the “gold standard” for child welfare policy and keeping Native children connected to their communities and cultures.

“Native American children, like all children, thrive when they are able to grow up with the support of their families, communities, and cultures,” said Udall. “Congress enacted the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978 to ensure that best practices in child custody for Native communities are in place, keeping families together and kids healthy and safe. Now, on the 40th anniversary of its passage, I’m proud to have worked with my colleagues in the House and Senate to mark the important impact that this law has had on generations of Native kids.” 

“The Indian Child Welfare Act is an important piece of legislation that respects the principles of government to government relationships with Tribes and Tribal sovereignty,” said Hoeven.

“The Indian Child Welfare Act or ICWA is landmark legislation enacted four decades ago to end the abusive practice of ‘adopting out’ Native children in need of aid,” said Murkowski. “Its premise is that Native children who grow up with a connection to their heritage and culture become strong adults and parents. The State of Alaska and Alaska’s 229 tribes have partnered to ensure that this important legislation fulfills its promise to our Native children. It is important that we celebrate this partnership during this 40th anniversary year for ICWA is as vital today as it was on the day it was enacted by Congress.”

“Forty years ago, when the Indian Child Welfare Act became law, Congress declared national policy for Tribal children,” said Bass. “Through the Indian Child Welfare Act, Congress recognizes tribes’ sovereign authority to make decisions about children who are tribal members. Eighteen national child welfare and child advocacy organizations — including the Child Welfare League of American, the National Association of Social Workers, and the North American Council on Adoptable Children — are united in their view that the Indian Child Welfare Act is the gold standard for child welfare policies and practices that should be afforded to all children. This bipartisan resolution affirms the principles embodied in the Indian Child Welfare Act, including the importance of protecting the best interests of American Indian and Alaska Native children, promoting the stability and security of Indian Tribes and families, and respecting tribal sovereignty. Congress should pass it.”

“At the heart of the Indian Child Welfare Act is the recognition that Tribal heritage is a profoundly special and valuable heritage to know and pass on,” said Cole. “Forty years since this monumental legislation was enacted, we affirm our obligation to serve the best interests of Native children and ensure that their Tribal heritage is not lost.” 

In addition to Udall, Hoeven, Murkowski, Bass, and Cole, the Senate resolution is sponsored by Senators Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Angus King (I-Maine), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) while the House resolution is sponsored by Representatives Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Don Young (R-Alaska), Danny Davis (D-Ill.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), Norma Torres (D-Calif.), Tom Marino (R-Pa.), Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), and Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.).

The full text of the resolution can be found HERE.