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DHS news release

September 21, 2005


Program contact: Mary McNevins (503) 945-7022

Media contact: Patricia Feeny (503) 945-6955


State and tribes host annual Indian child welfare conference



When it comes to the protection of Oregon's Indian children and the preservation of their families, the key to success is the longstanding close and cooperative relationships between tribal and state child welfare officials.


For example, Oregon's Department of Human Services (DHS) and Oregon's Native American Tribes will be hosting their annual Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Conference Sept 27-29 at the Seven Feathers Convention Center in Canyonville.


Mary McNevins, the DHS ICWA manager, says the conference -- "Building for the Future of Indian Children and Families: Cultural Competency & Collaboration" -- is a forum to learn more about Native American issues and an opportunity to build and strengthen relationships between the state and tribes.


"Working in the best interest of children means working together -- the state, the tribes and the families," said McNevins. "The tribal-state collaboration is critical in addressing the needs and challenges facing tribal communities, which have few financial resources but significant human resources of caring, tireless individuals."


National and local Indian child welfare experts will provide education and training on promising practices that preserve traditions and keep families intact so that children are healthy and safe.
"Participants will gain a greater understanding of tribal custom, law, culture and history," McNevins said. "When tribal capacity is strengthened, Indian children and families benefit."


A recent report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office attributed Oregon's positive outcomes in placement decisions involving Indian children to the close working relationships of tribal and child welfare officials.


About two million Indians belong to more than 550 federally recognized Indian tribes nationwide, of which nine are in Oregon. At any given time, about 400 Indian children are in foster care in Oregon. In 1978, Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act, which protects the best interests of Indian children and promotes the stability and security of Indian tribes and families. It also ensures that Indian children will be placed in foster or adoptive homes that reflect the unique values of Indian culture.