New Federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Regulations Overview
Presented by Adrian Smith, J.D.
Adrian Smith, J.D. will provide an overview of the new Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) regulations which took effect on December 12, 2016. The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), 25 U.S.C. §§ 1901-1963, was enacted in 1978 in response to a crisis affecting Indian children, families and Tribes. Studies revealed that large numbers of Indian children were being separated from their parents, extended families, and communities and placed in non-Indian homes. Through ICWA, Congress established minimum federal standards to be applied in state child custody proceedings. ICWA requires state courts to utilize these federal standards to determine almost all of key issues that must be decided in child custody proceedings–when a child can be removed or parental rights terminated, what constitutes consent to adoption, and placement of the child in both adoption and foster care proceedings. Compliance with these requirements has been uneven across the country and certain provisions have been interpreted differently from one state to another. For that reason, the Department of Interior issued new guidelines clarifying how the Act should be applied and binding regulations have now been issued. The presentation will provide information about key sections of the new regulations, with a focus on the definition of active efforts, requirements for a qualified expert witness, notice requirements and application of the existing Indian family exception.