Tom Cole and Betty McCollum: Doing what's best for Indian children

Indian children in South Dakota. Photo from Lakota People's Law Project

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma) and Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minnesota), the co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional Native American Caucus, defend the Indian Child Welfare Act from attacks in the courts and in the media:
When Congress passed ICWA, it was meant to solve a very real identity problem for Native American children, help loving families stay together and also prevent unnecessary holes in tribal communities. But most importantly, it sought—and still aims—to ensure children live in the environment where they are best cared for and most loved.

Certainly, tribal nations care deeply for their youth and the continuation of a special heritage to them, and ICWA is meant to help the majority of Native American children and youth stay connected with that heritage. However, there are circumstances when that is not possible, either with the absence of a willing guardian in the tribe or due to an abusive living environment. In such cases, ICWA provides guidance and requirements for legal separations, including private adoptions and foster care placements. But similar to the Hague convention that regulates international adoptions, ICWA encourages tribal nations to make a reasonable effort to facilitate a tribal adoption first—preferably with a family member.

As with any matter involving the safety of our nation’s children, everyone wants a simple and certain solution. As legislators, we must ensure that ICWA continues to serve the best interests of Native American children and prevent their safety from being jeopardized. The hope is that Native American children can safely remain with their tribe and be brought up to know and appreciate their important heritage. We should be careful about the language we use and the laws we put forward, and ultimately, when interpreting or revising ICWA, we should reflect on what is best for Native American children.

Get the Story:
Rep. Tom Cole and Rep .Betty McCollum Taking care of Native children (The Hill 11/25)

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