Law | Opinion

Gina Jackson: Judiciary must fulfill the promises behind ICWA

"Working together to provide safety, permanency, and well-being are high priority goals that child welfare systems strive to achieve. It has been 33 years since the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) was passed, and it is important to take the time to evaluate the impact on the child welfare system since that time. How are we doing as a Nation in following this important law, in spirit and practice? Recently, there has been a surge in ICWA awareness due to the latest disproportionality reports and media coverage indicating that there is still a significant problem.

While there has been progress since ICWA was passed, disproportionality rates continue to remain high. A review of the child welfare system data indicates that “across the United States, Native American children are overrepresented in foster care at a rate of 2.2 times their rate in the general population” (Disproportionality Rates for Children of Color in Foster Care, published by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, May 2011). It is clear that many, many states continue to struggle with this issue, as 26% of states have a disproportionality index higher than 4.1., including one state that has an index rate of 11.6, which ultimately means that Native children come into foster care 11 times more often in that particular state.

It is time for leadership and vision from the bench to fulfill the ICWA promise. Since no child enters or leaves the child welfare system without a judge’s order, it is imperative for judges to not only have a solid working knowledge of the Indian Child Welfare Act, but an understanding of why we have the Indian Child Welfare Act. It is extremely important to learn from the past in order to build a very different future in working with Native children, families, and tribes."

Get the Story:
Gina Jackson: Vision from the Bench to Fulfill the ICWA Promise (The National Association of State Judicial Educators 1/18)

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