Larry Roberts, the acting Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs. Photo: Indian Affairs
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Final Indian Child Welfare Act rule goes into effect this December





A new Indian Child Welfare Act rule that was finalized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs this week goes into effect in December.

The time frame ensures the finished product will become law before the end of the Obama administration. But it also has a practical significance, acting assistant secretary Larry Roberts said on Wednesday.

The BIA will use the next 180 days to offer training and technical assistance for tribes and states. In particular, Roberts said states need sufficient time to adjust their child welfare proceedings.

"We want to make sure they have time to do that before the rule becomes effective," Roberts said on a conference call with reporters.

Roberts signed the 367-page document on Monday. But the actual date the rule will become effective will be known once it is published in the Federal Register.

The goal of the rule is to ensure greater compliance with ICWA. It requires state court systems and state welfare agencies to determine whether a child is Indian and whether the law applies to their proceedings.

"Tribal children are still disproportionately more likely to be removed from their homes and communities than other children," Roberts said. "Tribal families continue to be broken up by the removal of their children."

Roberts said the BIA received more comments on the rule than any other in its history. Some of the public responses can be found on regulations.gov.

"It's clearly an issue of public interest," Roberts said. Comments from tribes were unanimous in their support for the rule, he added.

“This is a historic step toward guaranteeing greater safeguards for Indian children,” Dr. Sarah Kastelic, the executive director of the National Indian Child Welfare Association, said in a press release. “These regulations offer an important and necessary line of defense as the child welfare system still falls short for our Native children.”

Get the Story:
Judges must ask about youths’ tribal status under new rule (AP 6/9)
Initial Observations on the ICWA Regulations (Turtle Talk 6/8)
BIA Publishes Final ICWA Rule (Indian Country Today 6/8)
New Indian Child Welfare Act rule further protects Native American families (KSWO 6/8)

Relevant Documents:
Final Rule: Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Proceedings | Final Rule: Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Frequently Asked Questions | Dear Tribal Leader Letter | Dear State Governor Letter

Federal Register Notices for Indian Child Welfare Act:
Regulations for State Courts and Agencies in Indian Child Custody Proceedings (March 30, 2015)
Guidelines for State Courts and Agencies in Indian Child Custody Proceedings (February 25, 2015)

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