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BIA holds listening sessions on Indian Child Welfare Act guidance

The Bureau of Indian Affairs will hold two more listening sessions on the Indian Child Welfare Act.

The BIA issued Guidelines for State Courts in 1979, a year after ICWA became law. Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn said the document is long overdue for an update.

“The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 is seminal legislation vital to protecting the best interests of Indian children and promoting the stability and security of the federally recognized tribes and Indian families,” Washburn said in a press release. “However, the law and BIA’s guidelines for state courts on implementing the statute need re-examination. In addition to conducting these Listening Sessions, I’ve directed my staff to take another look at the Guidelines for State Courts and invited input from tribal leaders, tribal court judges, counsel, ICWA staff, social workers and tribal members on any revisions to it and to BIA ICWA regulations they think are needed.”

The next listening session takes place tomorrow in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It's being held in conjunction with the 32nd Annual Protecting Our Children National American Indian Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect, which is hosted by the National Indian Child Welfare Association.

Associate Attorney General Tony West of the Department of Justice spoke at the conference this morning. He said the Obama administration supports strong compliance with ICWA.

"Although ICWA speaks primarily to the responsibilities and roles of the states and the tribes, we believe there’s a constructive part for the federal government to play," West said, according to his prepared remarks. "That's why the White House has directed the Departments of the Interior, Health and Human Services, and Justice to engage in an unprecedented collaboration to help ensure that ICWA is properly implemented."

Another listening session will take place Thursday, April 24, via teleconference. Additional information can be found on the BIA's ICWA page.

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