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Amending the Indian Child Welfare Act

line The Indian Child Welfare Act is hurting families and children of Native American descent. Federal tax dollars are being used across the country to support the enactment and adherence to this law; however in thousands of cases, the law is destroying loving, stable families and placing children in harmful and difficult situations. The very intent of the law is being compromised by how it’s being used. This federal law was originally established to protect families and Indian children – not destroy them. To protect children who have Native American heritage and their families, amendments must be made to the Indian Child Welfare Act. Proposed amendments are:
  1. Ensure an Indian child has a ‘parent’ as defined by the law and the parent has properly established paternity under state law.
  2. Provide fit birth parents of Indian children the right to choose healthy guardians or adoptive parents for their children without concern for heritage.
  3. Ensure the ‘qualified expert witness’ is someone who is able to advocate for the well-being of the Indian child, first and foremost.
  4. Clarify that the ICWA does not apply to family court disputes, not just divorce proceedings, over Indian children.
  5. Clarify that the ICWA allows transfer only of foster care and termination proceedings and that transfer motions must be filed within 30 days from the start of the proceeding.
  6. Clarify that an Indian birth mother does not need to consent to adoption in court.
  7. Limit a parent’s right to revoke to 30 days versus the current practice allowing birth parents to revoke their consent up to 12 months after a child has been placed.
  8. Clarify that final adoptions may only be vacated for fraud within limits under state law. The ICWA currently gives parents two years. There are adoptive parents who are terrified for two years after the adoption is final due to this requirement.
  9. Define ‘good cause’ to allow for birth parent’s preference, lack of Indian home after search, and the child’s emotional, physical, and developmental needs.
Reasonable and expedited amendments must be made to this law to help ensure children of Indian heritage have the same rights as all other children in the United States. We must also protect those individuals and families that consciously make the decision to love these children and to provide them with safe, happy, healthy, permanent homes whether those individuals and families are Native American or not.