WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Tom Udall, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and Martin Heinrich, along with Representative Ben Ray Luján, introduced a bicameral resolution commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), and recognizing its importance to promoting the stability and security of Tribal communities and families.
ICWA sets best-practice standards for child welfare and adoption proceedings involving children who are members of a federally-recognized Tribe or are eligible for membership in a federally-recognized Tribe. It was designed to respond to the disproportionately high number of Native children who were unnecessarily removed from their families. When the law was first enacted in 1978, one-third of all Native children in the U.S. were placed in foster care or adoptive homes by child welfare systems unfamiliar with tribal child rearing practices, resulting in generations of displaced Native children. Over four decades, the law has become the “gold standard” for child welfare policy and keeping Native children connected to their communities and cultures.
“In New Mexico and around the country, Native children, like all children, thrive when they are able to grow up with the support of their families, communities, and cultures,” said Udall. “In 1978, Congress enacted the Indian Child Welfare Act to ensure that best practices in child custody for Native communities are in place, keeping families together and kids healthy and safe. This year, on the 40th anniversary of its passage, I’m proud to have led the effort to mark the important impact that this law has had on generations of Native kids in New Mexico and across the United States.”
“The Indian Child Welfare Act served as both a recognition and change of course from a dark period in our history in which children from tribal communities were separated from their parents, their families, and their culture,” said Heinrich. “We should do everything we can to ensure Native children in the child welfare system are able to retain their culture and connection to their tribal community. On this anniversary, I am committed to holding the federal government and states accountable for working with tribes to fully uph0ld and implement this important law.”
“Our country has a solemn responsibility to the Native children and their families who have been disproportionately and wrongly separated in their communities,” said Luján. “While the Indian Child Welfare Act has led to progress over the last 40 years, it is incumbent on Congress to reaffirm its importance and work with tribes to ensure all Native families are connected to their communities and culture. In New Mexico, Navajos have a strong belief in Ke’ and Hozhoo, which bring and restore wholeness and beauty to their families; our work with this Act helps pave that way for many Navajo families.”
The full text of the resolution can be found HERE.