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DHS news release

September 19, 2007

Program contact: Mary McNevins 503-945-7022
Media contact: Patricia Feeny 503-945-6955

State and Warm Springs Tribe host Indian child welfare conference

For nearly three decades, state agencies and tribes have been working together to keep Oregon's Indian children safe in permanent, stable homes while preserving their family and tribal relationships.

This month, the state and its tribal partners have another opportunity to collaborate in the best interests of Indian children at the annual Indian Child Welfare Conference hosted by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and the Oregon Department of Human Services.

Mary McNevins, the DHS Indian Child Welfare Act manager, says the conference -- "Empowering Families Through a Circle of Tradition and Culture" -- is a forum to learn more about Native American issues and an opportunity to build and strengthen relationships between the state and tribes.

"A child protection system that embraces tribal values can achieve better and lasting outcomes for Indian children and their families," said McNevins. "Protecting the safety, stability and well-being of our Indian children is the key to the preservation and continued existence of Oregon's tribes."

During the two-day conference, national and local Indian child welfare experts will provide education and training on the importance of traditions, family connections and child safety. Participants also will receive training on the importance of the Indian Child Welfare Act. Passed in 1978 by Congress, ICWA 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.

The conference is Sept. 26-27 at Kah-Nee-Ta High Desert Resort and Casino in Warm Springs.

Some fast facts about children who are tribal members:

  • Approximately 2 million Indians belong to more than 550 federally recognized Indian tribes nationwide, nine of which are in Oregon.
  • Of those tribal members, 33 percent are under the age of 18, compared with 26 percent of the total population.
  • In 2004, 10,398 Indian children nationwide were victims of child maltreatment.
  • In Oregon, 12.4 percent of the more than 16,000 Oregon children in foster care last year were Native American, while Native Americans account for just 1.3 percent of the Oregon population 18 and younger.
  • At any given time, 400 Indian children are in Oregon foster care.