BIA schedules consultations and meetings for ICWA regulation

Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn. Photo from Bureau of Indian Affairs / Twitter

The Bureau of Indian Affairs will be holding a series of tribal consultations and public meetings to discuss a rule that seeks to strengthen the Indian Child Welfare Act.

Congress passed ICWA in 1978 to keep Indian children from being removed from their tribal communities. But implementation has been uneven so the new rule seeks to ensure compliance by state courts and child welfare agencies.

“The Bureau of Indian Affairs’ proposed rule clarifies and strengthens implementation of the act’s requirements in Indian child custody proceedings to ensure that Indian families and tribal communities do not face the unwarranted removal of their youngest and most vulnerable members,” Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn said in a press release.

The proposed rule will be published in the Federal Register on Friday and will be open for public comment. The BIA will hold five public meetings and one teleconference in April and May to discuss the changes.

Additionally, the BIA will meet with tribes at six consultation sessions. One will take place April 23 in Rapid City, South Dakota, where Washburn has said ICWA compliance has been in question.

"For American Indian children and Indian tribes, the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 is one of the most important laws to be passed in the modern era," Washburn wrote in a letter to tribal leaders. "This law's implementation, however, has never lived up to its promise."

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