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Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)



ICWA Video - This video is the culmination of the ongoing collaboration between the Mississippi Courts, Child Welfare Agency, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, and various National Resource Centers which specifically focus their expertise on educating non tribal entities on the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and other issues related to Native American values. The video trailer was developed by the Mississippi Administrative Office of Courts/Court Improvement Program in consultation with the National Resource Center on Legal and Judicial Issues and the National Resource Center for Tribes as an ICWA educational resource for judges, courts, child welfare, and judicial educators.


Tribal Court Directory - ICWA agents for notice



Native Foster Care: Lost Children, Shattered Families - Nearly 700 Native American children in South Dakota are being removed from their homes every year, sometimes in questionable circumstances. A National Public Radio news investigation has found that the state is largely failing to place them according to the law. The vast majority of native kids in foster care in South Dakota are in nonnative homes or group homes, according to an NPR analysis of state records. Over 30 states struggle with complying with the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act. This link will lead to an investigative story that explains the consequences to families of children of authorities not attending to the ICWA law and intent. Please contact either Norman Kirsch (norman.kirsch@state.co.us) or Kim Johnson of the Denver Indian Family Resource Center ( kjohnson@difrc.org with any questions.



2011 Native American Involvements - This document depicts the SFY 2011 Native American Involvements open between 07/01/2010 and 06/30/2011(Native American Clients participating as a child in a Child Welfare involvement).


2012 Native American Involvements - This document depicts the SFY 2012 Native American Involvements open between 07/01/2011 and 06/30/2012(Native American Clients participating as a child in a Child Welfare involvement). 


2013 Native American Involvements - This document depicts the SFY 2013 Native American Involvements open between 07/01/2012 and 06/30/2013(Native American Clients participating as a child in a Child Welfare involvement). 


2008 - 2013 Native American Involvements - This graph depicts the SFY 2008 - 2013 Native American Involvements. 


What do you need to know about the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)?

Public Law 95-608

Enacted November 8, 1978


A Perspective on ICWA


Native American Rights Fund

Founded in 1970, the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) is the oldest and largest nonprofit law firm dedicated to asserting and defending the rights of Indian tribes, organizations and individuals nationwide.


List of Federally Recognized Tribes

This is a list of Federally recognized Indian Tribes by area.


American Indian/Alaska Native Assessment Form


What is ICWA?

The Indian Child Welfare Act or ICWA is a law that applies to state, county and private child welfare agencies.  It covers tribal children from all American Indian and Alaska Native tribes listed in the Federal Register.  ICWA supports Indian tribes' authority over their members and the well-being of Indian children and families.


Who is an Indian child?

Under ICWA, a child is Indian if he or she has a mother or father who is a member of an Indian tribe.  The child must also be a member of a tribe OR be eligible for membership.


Why is the law only for an Indian child?

History tells us why...Indian tribes are sovereign nations.  The U.S. government has a unique political relationship with Indian nations through treaties that it does not have with any other peoples in our county.


Why was the law passed?

Sadly, countless number of Indian children have been removed from their families and tribes.  Boarding schools run by the government and other groups kept school-age children away from their homes.  Many children lost their traditions and culture and experienced serious problems later in life. 

Often, child welfare agency workers used their own cultural believes to decide if Indian children were being raised properly.  Also, many have not understood the importance of the extended family--relatives other than mother or father--in bringing up children in native cultures.


Does the law apply to people living away from Indian reservation?

Many believe that the law only applies to Indian children living on reservations...the law applies to ALL Indian children, wherever they may live.  Therefore, it is important that child welfare workers assess ancestry of all children referred for neglect and abuse.  If known, the child's tribe must always be notified by certified mail of any court proceedings involving placing children in foster care, termination of parental or adoption.  Where ancestry is not clear, the Bureau of Indian Affairs should be notified.


How does the law work?

First, ICWA means that every efforts will be made to try to keep families together.  If removal is necessary, "active rehabilitative efforts" must be made to bring the families together.  This means that everything possible must be done to help the families resolve the problems that led to neglect or abuse, including referral to services that are sensitive to the family's culture

If a child is removed, ICWA requires that child welfare agencies must actively seek to place a child with :

  1. relatives,
  2. a tribal family, or
  3. an Indian family before placing the child in a non-Indian home


How can you protect your children?

Papers that need to be kept in  a safe place include: enrollment numbers and certificates of Indian Blood (CIBs); census numbers or blood quantum cards; and birth certificates with the mother's and father's names listed.  Other things that may help include a family tree or a genealogy record.

If you are referred for child neglect or abuse and need legal help, you have the right to a court appointed attorney if you cannot afford one.


What else can you do?

Everyone is responsible for the welfare of each child.  Each child is a sacred gift.  Children must be protected.  Children must never be abused or neglected.  There are many things you can do.

  • If you want to become involved in supporting ICWA
  • If you are interested in becoming a foster or adoptive parent
  • If you have had your children removed



Denver Indian Family Resource Center
4407 Morrison Rd., Suite 100
Denver, CO 80219
(P) 303.871.8035
(F)  720.884.0850


If you need help with other services call:

Indian Health and Family Services
1633 Fillmore Street, GL1
Denver, CO 80206


If you have questions regarding ICWA, please contact Norman Kirsch at 303-866-5936.


revised 11/05/2013