The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), which turns 40 this year, was created to prevent the separation of Native American children from their families as well as protect the best interests of Indian children and promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families.

In the late seventies, Congress investigated U.S. child custody proceedings involving Indian children. These investigations and studies revealed that large numbers of Native American children were being separated from their parents, extended families, and communities by state child welfare and private adoption agencies. These investigations culminated in Congress enacting the ICWA, which concerns itself with the well being of Indian tribes and children.

The ICWA conferred many powers previously held by the states to tribal courts and created a preference for Indian children to be placed with their extended family, other members of their tribe, or other Indian families.

In response to the alarmingly high number of Indian children being removed from their homes by both public and private agencies, the ICWA sets federal requirements that apply to state child custody proceedings involving a Native American child who is a member of, or eligible for membership in, a federally recognized tribe.

Child custody proceedings under ICWA include hearings focused on foster care placement, termination of parental rights, and adoption.  Yet some states resist the ICWA through judicially created exceptions. Other states rebuff these exceptions and apply the ICWA more broadly. What is clear is that confusion on the scope and application of the ICWA continues.

The Federal Bar Association’s two-day Indian Law Conference will introduce the topic of the ICWA and speakers will explore the latest legal challenges to the ICWA. The tug-of-war among tribes, states, and the federal government in light of the ICWA will be assessed in full on April 5-6, 2018 at the Indian Law Conference.

“ICWA & Recent Developments” speakers include Bethany Berger (Professor of Law, University of Connecticut School of Law), Kathryn E. Fort (Professor of Law, Director, Indian Law Clinic, Michigan State University College of Law), and Victoria Sweet (Senior Program Attorney, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges). These panelists will review the historical background, congressional intent, tribal interests, constitutional challenges to the ICWA, and jurisdictional issues.

This year’s Indian Law Conference observes the hope, healing, successes, failures, and recent developments of the ICWA. Join the Federal Bar Association’s Indian Law Section for its 43rd Annual Indian Law Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona to examine child welfare issues in Indian Country. Pre-registration for this event is now closed.
Onsite registration will be available for attendees at the following times:

  • Wednesday 4/4 (3:00 – 5:00 pm)
  • Thursday 4/5 (7:30 am – 5:30 pm)
  • Friday 4/6 (7:30 am – 5:00 pm)

Stacy Slotnick, Esq. holds a J.D., cum laude, from Touro Law Center and a B.A., summa cum laude, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She performs a broad range of duties as an entertainment lawyer, including drafting and negotiating contracts; addressing and litigating trademark, copyright, patent, and other IP issues; and directing the strategy and implementation of public relations, blogging, and social media campaigns.