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Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)


Christine Kamps
Phone: 503-508-1351

Michael Stickler

Federal Laws and Policies

ICWA is a Federal Statute governing the placement of Indian Children who are in any out of home placement, voluntary or involuntary, by any state, county, city or government. The act applies to all public or private agencies that remove or place children.

The Indian Child Welfare Act Fact Sheet

  • ICWA is a preemptory law; when the ICWA and state law are in conflict, ICWA takes precedent over state law. 

  • Congressional findings state that there is no resource more vital to the continued existence to the integrity of Indian tribes than their children and that the United States has a direct interest, as trustee, in protecting Indian children who are members of or are eligible for membership in an Indian tribe.

  • ICWA was passed in 1978, after Congress held hearings. Congressional findings included that states, exercising their recognized jurisdiction over Indian child custody proceedings through administrative and Judicial bodies, have often failed to recognize the essential tribal relations of Indian people and the cultural and social standards prevailing in Indian communities and families.

  • Congressional declaration of policy:
    The Congress hereby declares that it is the policy of this Nation to protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families by the establishment of minimum federal standards for the removal of Indian children from their families and the placement of such children in foster or adoptive homes which will reflect the unique values of Indian culture, and by providing for assistance to Indian tribes in the operation of child and family service programs.

  • The State of Oregon has operated an ICWA program through its child welfare agencies since the ICWA was passed in 1978. The ICWA program's focus is to assist the state in compliance with ICWA.

  • The State of Oregon has nine federally recognized Indian Tribes located within its boundaries. The State of Oregon has about 40,000 Indians located in the state, with about 12,000 of this population located in the Portland metropolitan area. Another 12,000 individuals are located in the nine federally recognized Indian tribal communities with the rest of the Indian population located through out the state.

  • There are about 400 Indian children in substitute state care at any one time statewide.

  • The State of Oregon's DHS meets quarterly with the Indian Tribes of Oregon to assess their needs in child welfare and to work on areas of common interest to both the Tribes of Oregon and DHS.

  • There are about 2 million individual Indians in the United States, with over 550 federally recognized Indian Tribes nationwide. The ICWA requires states to work with these communities when any of their children come into state care.

ICWA Resources

Cherokee Kids
Through a federal Adoption Opportunities Grant, the Cherokee Nation has created this website which contains profiles of Native American families who have been approved for adoption and are available for placement of Native American children.

National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA)
Serves American Indian tribes throughout the country by helping to strengthen and enhance their capacity to deliver quality child welfare services. Major activities include public policy analysis, community development and information exchange.

Oregon Legislative Commission on Indian Services
Serves as the main forum in which Indian concerns are considered. Point of access for finding out about state government programs and Indian communities.

Oregon Revised Statutes