On June 14, 2016, the Department of Interior published its Final Rule on Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Proceedings in the FEDERAL REGISTER. The rule addresses state court implementation of ICWA in Indian child welfare proceedings and the required state maintenance of ICWA records. This is a major development toward achieving consistent, uniform, and timely compliance with ICWA, a statute designed in the words of a House Committee report (95-1386) to “protect the rights of the Indian child as an Indian and the rights of the Indian community and tribe in retaining its children in its society”. The Final Rule takes effect December 12, 2016, providing time for state courts and agencies to make any necessary changes for implementation.
The Department of Interior (DOI) published ICWA Guidelines in February 2015 but upon the recommendations from tribes and tribal organizations that binding regulations would be more effective, DOI drafted proposed regulations. More than 2,100 written comments were filed regarding the proposed regulations; oral comments were also provided in meetings, hearings, and consultation sessions. DOI now intends to issue updated Guidelines to conform to the Final Rule and will offer regional training sessions and webinars to state courts and agencies.
The lengthy Final Rule provides clarity regarding numerous matters including: identification of whether a child is Indian in the earliest states of proceedings; uniform requirements for notice to parents and tribes in involuntary proceedings; standards regarding denial to transfer cases to tribal court; expert qualified witness criteria; placement preferences for foster and adoptive care; rights of adult adoptees to information from the state; emergency proceedings; and clarity regarding what some courts have deemed the “existing Indian Family exception”.
June 23 Webinar/ Explanatory Materials. The National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) will hold a webinar on the new regulations on Thursday, June 23, 2016, at 12:30 p.m. Pacific/3:30 p.m. Eastern time. NICWA and the Native American Rights Fund have jointly prepared the following document explaining some of the key provisions of the Final Rule:
I:NICWAICWA regs and guidanceICWA regs summary from NIWA NARF doc.pdf
Below is a copy of the Final Rule and several related documents prepared by DOI:
I:NICWAICWA regs and guidanceICWA Final Rule June 14 2016.pdf
I:NICWAICWA regs and guidanceICWA final rule FAQs June 2016.pdf
I:NICWAICWA regs and guidanceICWA final rule Tribal Leader Letter June 2016.pdf
I:NICWAICWA regs and guidanceICWA final rule State Governor letter June 2016.pdf
I:NICWAICWA regs and guidanceICWA regs Summary doc.pdf
Please let us know if we may provide additional information regarding the Final Rule for Indian Child Welfare Act Proceedings.