Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Final Rule: FAQs on ICWA Proceedings

The Bureau of Indian Affairs has released a series of frequently asked questions related to its recent final rule pertaining to Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) proceedings.

ICWA, enacted by Congress in 1978, governs state child-custody proceedings in multiple ways, including: (1) by recognizing Tribal jurisdiction over decisions for their Indian children; (2) by establishing minimum federal standards for the removal of Indian children from their families; (3) by establishing preferences for placement of Indian children with extended family or other Tribal families; and (4) by instituting protections to ensure that birth parents’ voluntary relinquishments of their children are truly voluntary.

The recent rule incorporates child-welfare best practices and promotes uniformity in State ICWA proceedings — no matter the child welfare worker, judge, or state handling the case — while still taking into account the unique circumstances of each child.

The 11-page document includes questions such as

  • What, specifically, does this rule do?
  • How does the rule clarify the applicability of ICWA?
  • How does the rule address the so-called “existing Indian family (EIF)” exception?
  • What are the rule’s requirements for emergency proceedings?
  • What are the rule’s requirements for transferring child-custody proceedings to Tribal court?
  • What are the rule’s requirements for qualified expert witnesses?
  • How do I find a qualified expert witness with knowledge of the Tribe’s social and cultural standards? What are the rule’s requirements for placement preferences?
  • Does the rule allow State courts to depart from the placement preferences if a child has bonded with a nonpreferred placement?
  • What if no preferred placements are available? How does the rule protect a birth parent’s privacy in voluntary proceedings?
  • Does this rule affect a parent’s right to choose who adopts their child in voluntary adoptions? ..

Access the FAQs here.

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Christie Renick
About Christie Renick 119 Articles
Tucson-based southwest editor and vice president of Fostering Media Connections. Reach her at crenick@fosteringmediaconnections.org or follow @christiejrenick.