Educare Policy Workgroup Advocacy on the Indian Child Welfare Act
October 13, 2022
Background on the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)
The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) is a federal law governing the placement and adoption of children experiencing foster care who are Native American. ICWA aims to ensure that tribal authorities are involved in the child welfare proceedings of children who are enrolled tribal members. This law also states that Native children who enter the foster care and/or adoption system should be placed with extended family or another Native American family if possible, in order to preserve and protect the child’s connection to their culture.
ICWA was designed to meet immediate child safety needs while honoring tribal sovereignty and ensuring that child protection hearings and placements are carried out in a way that protects Native cultures and familial connections.
This is a policy response to local and state agencies historically separating Native children from their families at disproportionately high rates. Studies conducted by the Association on American Indian Affairs in 1969 and 1974 indicated that “25-35% of all Indian children had been separated from their families and placed in foster homes, adoptive homes or institutions, and 90% of those placements were in non-Indian homes.”
How ICWA Connects to the Educare Learning Network
On November 9, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case (Haaland v. Brackeen) challenging the constitutionality of ICWA. Specifically, the Court will determine whether the law’s preference for placing Native American children with Native American families violates non-Native families’ right to equal protection under the law.
The Educare Policy Workgroup supports upholding and expanding ICWA to promote family and community autonomy and build on ICWA’s success at the state and federal levels. This issues connects to the Educare Learning Network’s commitment to equity and the Educare Five priorities to ensure young children and their families are supported and thriving.
How to Take Action in Support of ICWA
Here are a few ways to learn more and show your support for strengthening ICWA:
- Attend a virtual rally hosted by the Protect ICWA campaign.
- Oct. 12: Listen to Native Youth
- Oct. 19: Listen to Adoptee Allies
- Add your name to the Protect ICWA campaign’s petition. Please note: The petition is for individual signatures, not schools or organizations.
- Sign up to receive policy updates from the National Indian Child Welfare Association.
- Tune in on November 9 to watch the Supreme Court Oral Arguments in Haaland v. Brackeen.
This statement was created by the Educare Policy Workgroup (EPWG), a group of Educare school leaders who guide and support the collective Educare Learning Network’s engagement in early childhood policy and advocacy. The EPWG does this by amplifying the Network’s unique voice and authority to speak to how policy plays out at the operational level; the needs of young children and their families; the results that early childhood programs can achieve; and how early education programs can challenge social inequities and contribute to lasting economic and social returns.