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Stop the Misuse of ICWA (Indian Child Welfare Act)

Several months ago, the Department of Interior through the Bureau of Indian Affairs advised representatives of our Coalition and other interested child welfare groups that there would be an opportunity to provide comments and feedback to any proposed revisions to the BIA’s federal ICWA guidelines. However, in what appears to be a purposeful effort to bypass input from child welfare professionals, the public, and other child-focused organizations, the BIA recently published amended guidelines and made them effective immediately.

As distinguished professionals in the field of adoption and foster care, we and many other groups who work in the courts and the child welfare system are appalled by this surprise publication. The federal government’s unwillingness to hear from those groups who have been in the field for many years working directly with those families and children who will be negatively impacted by these guidelines is alarming.

As a nonprofit organization comprised of child welfare experts, we are committed to the ethical practice of adoption law. It is our mission to support and advocate for the rights of families and to consider the interest of all parties, especially children. Sadly, there are entire sections of the newly published BIA guidelines that completely disregard the best interest of children.

We are shocked by the process by which these guidelines were promulgated and published, and the blatant failure to provide legal protections for children, especially children who are in the foster care system. For example, in cases involving the removal of a child from his or her placement (even if the child will suffer serious harm), the court is directed not to consider attachment or bonding issues. The new guidelines also state that the “best interest of the child” is not a consideration, thus treating them as possessions as opposed to human beings with rights of their own.

As long-time protectors of the best interest of children, we are stunned by the lack of due process in formulating these new guidelines. While the guidelines are only recommendations and do not have the authority of federal enacted law or federal regulations, if these guidelines are given weight by the courts and child welfare agencies, children will most definitely be hurt.

We are committed to ensuring that every child has the best chance for a positive and fair outcome in the judicial system. We urge the Department of Interior, under the leadership of Congress, to reevaluate how these guidelines were drafted and issued, and allow others who work in the field with families and children to be involved in the process.

We are asking our U.S. Congressmen and women to please help stop these guidelines from being implemented and to stop the misuse of the Indian Child Welfare Act! Let the Department of Interior know that amending laws that can potentially hurt children is unacceptable.

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