The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 is a federal law designed to “protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families.” ICWA requires child protective services to actively involve tribes when providing intervention and services to Native American children and their families. Congress passed ICWA in response to alarmingly high rates of separation of Native American families, with the goal of preserving Native American families and culture. In 2009, to improve clarity and compliance with ICWA, Wisconsin signed into law the Wisconsin Indian Child Welfare Act (WICWA). WICWA was then incorporated into Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 48 (Children’s Code). Prior to passage of WICWA, Native American children in Wisconsin were about 1600 times more likely to be removed from their home by public social services than non-Native children. 32 states have state statutes related to enhancing or complying with ICWA.
Why is ICWA important?
How does ICWA help? Key points:
The powerful video Missing Threads: The Story of the Wisconsin Indian Child Welfare Act highlights the pain and loss of Native Americans who were forcefully separated from their families and placed in non-Native American homes.
For more information about the history and implementation of ICWA, see The Heart of ICWA for videos of Native families sharing their stories of loss and healing at the National Indian Child Welfare Association.