Indian Child Welfare Act in Texas (ICWA)
What is the Indian Child Welfare Act?
The ICWA is an act that gives tribal governments a say in child custody proceedings involving Native American children by giving tribes “exclusive jurisdiction over the case when the child resides on, or is domiciled on, the reservation”. This means that in cases of adoption and custody proceedings, the Native family should have custody priority.
According to NICWA.org, the Indian Child Welfare Act was enacted in 1978 to respond to a crisis affecting American Indian and Alaska Native children, families, and tribes. Specifically, ICWA sets federal requirements that apply to child custody involving an Indian child who is a member of or eligible member of a federally recognized tribe. Unfortunately, tragedy throughout adoption history made the Indian Child Welfare Act necessary. This was enacted to protect Indian children from being separated from their parents, families, and communities – and according to research by the NICWA, 85% of Native American children “were placed outside of their families and communities – even when fit and willing relatives were available”. This is the problem the ICWA seeks to avoid – to protect the best interest of the Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families.
What is the ICWA’s impact on adoption today?
Today, ICWA protects a tribe’s right to govern the placement of a Native American child. For this reason, this Native American adoption law may be utilized in a private domestic infant adoption in Texas. In appropriate situations, adoption agencies and adoption attorneys work with the child’s tribe to determine the best steps moving forward.
Adoption Choices of Texas is committed to following ICWA legal procedures in all of our adoption placements. Our social work staff has received ICWA training. Additionally, we work with qualified and experienced adoption attorneys, many of whom are members of the Academy of Adoption & Assisted Reproduction Attorneys (AAAA) and have experience with the Indian Child Welfare Act.
Our adoptive families are also trained and briefed on the legal aspects of adopting a Native American child, and any details related to Indian Child Welfare Act.
Who qualifies for ICWA?
A child must meet a strict set of qualifications to be governed by ICWA law. In order for an adoption to be covered by ICWA, the child must:
- Be a member of a federally recognized tribe
- Or be eligible for membership of a federally recognized tribe and have a biological parent who is a tribal member
Note that the eligibility requirements to be a part of a tribe will vary, as every Native American tribe has the right to determine membership requirements.
Many prospective birth mothers have Native American heritage, but there is a difference between having heritage and being a member of a federally recognized tribe. Most children who have Native American heritage are not subject to the ICWA, and the adoption can move forward without ICWA compliance. However, in the case that a child meets ICWA requirements, an experienced adoption attorney at Adoption Choices of Texas will guide the next steps of the process. Because the procedure of ICWA varies by situation, please contact us to learn more about your situation.
Why should I care about ICWA?
Even if you are not connected to a federally recognized tribe, you should still care. The ICWA seeks to provide support and basic respect for those who request it, and without this respect, where is humanity? There are many families in the world looking to adopt children no matter what their race or ethnicity; however, when tradition is so fully ingrained in a culture, it is unjust to take that away.
For more information about the Indian Child Welfare Act or adoption information, contact Adoption Choices of Texas. You can call us at 888-307-3340, text us at 888-307-3340, or email us here. If you are hoping to adopt, please visit us here. We look forward to helping you through your adoption journey!
For ICWA Questions and Answers: please click here.