What is the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)?

Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) services are available for children who are enrolled or eligible to be enrolled in the Sun’aq Tribe. In order for a child to be eligible for enrollment, they need to be the descendant of an enrolled member or be an Alaska Native, or American Indian and not be enrolled in another tribe (or willing to give up enrollment in another tribe) who has and currently lives in Kodiak for the last year. However, if a child is currently involved in an ICWA matter, the tribe of origin has the right to deny any request for dis-enrollment.

ICWA applies to children who are in state custody (Child in Need of Aid cases or CINA), from  the moment they come into custody, until they are returned to their parent or adopted. ICWA can also apply to step-parent adoptions and private party adoptions.

ICWA does not apply to custody cases between two parents (even if one parent is non-native). Although some reservation Tribes with Tribal Court systems (lower 48 Tribes) will become involved in divorce or custody cases between parents, the Sun’aq Tribe cannot become involved in a custody matter between two biological parents.

What does ICWA do for Tribal children? ICWA mandates a higher level of service for parents and children involved in ICWA matters under a clause in the act called “Active Efforts”.

ICWA also provides placement preferences:

  • Return to parents (native or non-native)
  • An extended family member (native or non-native)
  • A member of the child’s Tribe
  • A member of another Tribe
  • A non-native foster placement
  • A residential facility (least restrictive possible)

When a child’s Tribe intervenes on behalf of a child in an ICWA case, the Tribe becomes a party to the case, just as the parents, the State Office of Children’s Services, and the Guardian Ad Lietum (GAL). The Tribe may be represented by an Attorney (same as the other parties) or be represented by a non-Attorney ICWA representative. The Tribe becomes entitled to all documents, reports, case notes, and letters regarding the case. The Tribe may participate in all meetings, court hearings, case plans and mediation. The Tribe can provide information regarding placement options and recommendations for placement and services. If you have any questions regarding ICWA please call Linda Resoff.