Whose Rights Count? Confronting Violations of the Indian Child Welfare Act

Authors: Terry Cross and Sarah Kastelic

Disciplines: Health, Native American Studies, Political Science and Public Administration, Psychology, Social Work and Sociology

Themes: Activism, Community Development, Family and Youth, Health and Wellness, Human Services

This case explores the historical and ongoing need to keep American Indian/Alaska Native children protected in their families and communities whenever possible. Part I is a real life child custody scenario that involved the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. It illustrates the need for and provisions of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA). Part II provides a policy context for the scenario, summarizing the impetus for ICWA and key provisions, including: eligibility (when ICWA applies), tribal notification, tribal jurisdiction, and placement preferences. The case closes with steps to take if ICWA is not being properly followed in an eligible child custody case.