ACFS provides monitoring of child welfare cases throughout the United States involving children that are either enrolled in or eligible for membership in the tribe to ensure that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is followed.

The Indian Child Welfare Act is a federal law passed in 1978 that provides special protections for Indian children and families. ICWA applies to any state proceeding in which a child cannot be returned to the custody of the parent upon request. It applies to all proceedings in which a child has been removed from their parents care and placed in foster care, termination, and adoption proceedings. ICWA gives the tribe the legal right to intervene in all state proceedings involving an Indian Child other than parental custody situations. The Sault Tribe Child Welfare Committee (CWC) per Chapter 30 of the Tribal Code is the body that speaks on behalf of the tribe in these matters. ICWA does not apply to Tribal Court proceedings as the premises of ICWA are incorporated into our Tribal Code.

The Sault Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians monitors all child welfare cases under the jurisdiction of state Courts. Through this action, the tribe becomes a legal party to the case and has access to all records regarding the cases. Anishnaabek Community and Family Services has been designated by the tribe to provide monitoring services and the Sault Tribe Child Welfare Committee has been designated by the tribe to make recommendations to the State Courts on all cases relative to P.L. 95-608 (Indian Child Welfare Act). All cases are therefore reviewed to ensure compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act (P.L. 95-608).

The Tribal Legal Department files a legal intervention in the case and the monitoring worker gathers case information from the primary worker with at least a monthly case progress contact. The monitoring worker may also gather information from other sources such as the Guardian Ad Litem, service providers, foster care providers or the parents. The monitoring worker then presents the cases to the Sault Tribe Child Welfare Committee (CWC). After reviewing the case information, the CWC makes the recommendation on behalf of the Sault Tribe in each matter. The monitoring worker then provides the primary agency and the court the recommendation of the tribe. The monitoring worker may also be asked to serve as an expert witness or Qualified Indian Expert Witness (QEW) in many of these cases. If the worker is not asked to serve as the Qualified Indian Expert Witness many times they are responsible to facilitate and ensure approval of an alternate expert witness.

Several trends that have been noted by the tribe is an increase in the overall number of ICWA notices, an increase in the number of ICWA inquiries that are generated by various agencies specifically from the state of California, and an increase in the number of requests for Indian expert witness services.

 

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Photo by Ken Bosma / CC BY