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What is the Indian Child Welfare Act, and How Does it Affect Adoption?

By Jan Douglas

Are you a pregnant woman and looking to place your baby for adoption? There are various protections put into place for all parties involved when it comes to adoption. If you are looking for adoption agencies in Arizona, it can be beneficial to work with a local, licensed adoption agency like Adoption Choices of Arizona. A local adoption agency is usually educated in Arizona adoption laws and requirements.

Our local adoption agency can explain how adoption works in Arizona. And most importantly, we always treat you with respect and dignity and ensure you receive the birth mother benefits you need.

Although the adoption process works the same no matter a child’s racial background, there are specific laws governing Native American children. These laws were enacted in 1978 under the Indian Child Welfare Act. A child’s tribal identity is vital to who they are, and even in the event of adoption, this identity is important to preserve. This is what the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 aims to do.

Why Congress Passed the Indian Child Welfare Act

Before the ICWA was passed in 1978, 25-35% of Indian children were being removed from their homes by state and private agencies. And 85% of these children were placed in non-Indian foster or adoptive homes, even when there were solid relatives willing to take them. Congress realized that much of this was due to cultural ignorance and bias in the child welfare system. Congress determined that children are best served if they retain Tribal connections. Additionally, keeping children in the Tribe is vital to the Tribe’s continued subsistence. 

What the Indian Child Welfare Act does: 

The ICWA controls State child-custody proceedings in various ways:

  • It recognizes Tribal jurisdiction over the decisions of their Indian children.
  • The ICWA put in place minimum Federal standards regarding the removal of Indian children from their families.
  • The Act established the preference for Indian children to be placed with extended family or Tribal families first.
  • Protections were set up that ensure the parents’ voluntary relinquishments were truly voluntary.

This means that in cases of adoption and custody proceedings, the Native family should have custody priority.

How Does the Indian Child Welfare Act Help Everyone Involved in Adoption?

The ICWA rule institutes an early inquiry as to whether this legislation protects the child. This prevents a situation where the child is placed in an adoptive home without following the requirements of the ICWA. And the possibility of having to remove the child from the adoptive family because the enacted law was not followed. The ICWA requires that every attempt is made to place Indian children within the tribe. This is if the Indian child is a member or eligible for membership in a federally recognized tribe. 

What Happens When ICWA is Not Followed, and What is its Impact on Adoption

A couple fostered a 10-month-old Native American boy in 2016. The ICWA prevented the couple from adopting the boy the following year after the Navajo tribe found a Native family to take him. The couple filed a suit to keep the boy.

The suit was dropped when Navajo families declined to adopt the boy. They adopted him. The couple is fighting for custody of the boy’s sister, who lives with a great-aunt. The couple is petitioning Texas to declare the ICWA unconstitutional.

Child welfare experts consider the Indian Child Welfare Act the best. ICWA has helped tens of thousands of Indian children and families find justice in state child welfare systems for decades.

The Indian Child Welfare Act sought respect and identity affirmation for adoptees. In such a complex system, finding a home and a true identity can be difficult. The couple bringing the suit probably had good intentions, but this is the problem. Their families and tribes fight for these children. Probably not. He will have a loving family, but they won’t teach him the Navajo tradition, which is so important to him.

The ICWA supports and respects requesters. Many families around the world want to adopt children, but it’s unfair to take away a culture’s tradition.

The Path to Adoption

Regardless of the reason you are placing your baby for adoption, it is important to work with a licensed adoption agency. Adoption Choices of Arizona is one of the best adoption agencies in Arizona. We have professional adoption specialists that you will meet face-to-face and who will walk the adoption journey with you.

If you are pregnant and wondering if adoption may be the best option, we offer guidance and honest information. You and your adoption specialist will create a personal adoption plan. We have several adoption agencies in Arizona