Protect the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)

For over 40 years, the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) has protected American Indian and Alaska Native kids by keeping them in the care of extended family or tribes whenever possible. On November 9, 2022, a small group of opponents in Haaland v. Brackeen will argue in front of the Supreme Court that those protections should be taken away. If opponents succeed in dismantling ICWA, they will have also cleared the way for a larger attack on Native families, Native land, and tribal sovereignty.

Tewa Women United has signed on to the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center’s (NIWRC) amicus brief to the Supreme Court in support of the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

Three Reasons Why It’s Crucial to Protect ICWA

1. ICWA puts best practice into law

Experts agree that placing children with extended families or communities when possible is preferred. These placements give kids a connection to the people and places they come from. ICWA protects identity, familial network, and sense of belonging—things that all children need.

2. Family separation is a modern-day threat

Systemic, intergenerational trauma and neglect coupled with bias has meant that Native children still enter the child welfare system in disproportionate numbers. Fifteen percent of Native children can expect to enter foster care at some point before their 18th birthday compared to about 5% of white children and they are often not placed with relatives or other Native families, even when such placements are available and appropriate.

3. ICWA exists to curb and heal generations of harm

When ICWA was passed in the 1970s, research found that 25% to 35% of all Native children were being separated from their parents, extended families, and communities by state child welfare and private adoption agencies; of these, 85% were placed outside of their families and communities even when fit and willing relatives were available. The family separation crisis compounded nearly 200 years of active cultural genocide in the boarding school system, starting in the early 1800s. ICWA has acted as a much-needed reform on the practices that have separated Native children from their families for centuries.

What You Can Do