Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978: A Proposal for Change
The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 was to reduce the number of Native American children entering foster care and strengthen the families of Native American people. The three major goals of ICWA are to: 1) eliminate the need to remove Indian children from their families, both nuclear and extended, because of cultural bias and ignorance; 2) to assure that Indian children who need to be removed for their own protection be placed in foster and adoptive homes that reflect their unique culture and background; and 3) encourage tribal court adjudication of child custody proceedings involving Indian children (Jones 1995; Public Law No. 25-608). The goals of the ICWA are great in that they seek to address the preservation of Native American Indian families however there many barriers that hinder the effective implementation and delivery of ICWA. Barriers exist on the federal, state, county and tribal levels. The four major areas that need to be addressed to implement an effective policy are 1) the lack of accessible funding from federal; 2) the jurisdiction issues; 3) lack of knowledge ICWA and 4) the lack of a universal service model (Cross, 2006; Jones, 2000).
Proposed Amendments to Improve Implementation of ICWA
1. Lack of Funding
The ICWA in concept is remarkable, in that is seeks to preserve Native American families however in order for the policy to be most effective the barriers above needed to be addressed. In this paper, I will seek to develop a proposal that will outline the changes that should be made in order to maximize the effectiveness and service delivery of the policy. Currently, the ICWA has not impaired the rate of removal of Native American children from their homes because the ICWA does not provide sufficient funding to provide services for Native American families (Jones, 2000). The ICWA is funded federally and then administered by the states (Murray, 2008). Currently the standard of requiring tribes to enter in cooperative agreements with the
states has impeded access to funding. Cooperative agreements have proven to be challenging, some states and tribes are reluctant to enter into agreements due to historical conflicts (Jones, 2000). Thus many tribes have not applied or are ineligible for funding due to the fact they do not meet the guidelines. Another issue with states administrating funding to tribes is that they become responsible for tribes if they are out of compliance with the guidelines of the Title IV-E statues and are sanctioned by the federal government resulting in a reduction in funding (emphasis added; Jones, 2000). Without access to funding, if a Native American child is to be removed, the child under the ICWA is to be placed with the tribe (if requested) however unlike with the national standard foster care system, the foster family is not provided with payments nor with much needed medical care and counseling services for the child. The lack of monetary payment and services to Native American foster families deter them from providing a foster home to Native American children.
I propose that in order to give tribes greater access to funding, the ICWA should be continued to be federally funded and administered by the states to tribes and non-profit agencies whose mission is for the betterment and preservation of Native American families. The standard of cooperative agreements should be abolished as it hinders access to funding and limits the services available to families. The standard, which is to be set in place, should be developed at the federal level with input from state representatives, tribe leaders, families and social services providers who directly service this population thus are culturally aware and sensitive to their issues. States should not be held accountable for tribes being out of compliance, this is a paternalistic view and does not give states and tribes’...
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