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Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)

The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is a federal law that protects American Indian and Alaska Native children, families and Tribes from unnecessary child removal and displacement. The Oregon Indian Child Welfare Act (ORICWA) ensures the federal law is applied consistently within Oregon's systems.

Policies and resourcesAbout ICWAAbout ORICWA 

Policies and resources

About ICWA

For centuries, ever since European explorers made contact with Indigenous people in the Americas, Native American families have been broken apart. Children were sent to boarding schools where they were not allowed to speak their native languages or follow their cultural practices, and they rarely saw their families.

During the 1950s and 1960s, the Indian Adoption Project removed hundreds of children from their cultural communities and placed them in non-Native foster or adoptive families. The resulting historical trauma has left a lasting legacy that Tribes are working to overcome. Tribes have a government-to-government relationship with the United States based upon treaties, and they possess Tribal sovereignty based upon their inherent right to self-determination.

The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)​, passed in 1978, is a comprehensive federal law designed to protect American Indian and Alaska Native children, families and Tribes from unnecessary child removal and displacement, and to promote the stability and security of Tribes and families. The ICWA has been labeled ​the “gold standard" in child welfare practice by a coalition of 18 national child advocacy organizations.

The ICWA requires additional responsibilities for the public child welfare system and special judicial oversight when American Indian and Alaska Native children are involved in state child welfare systems. 

ICWA also:

  • ​Prevents the breakup of Tribal families
  • Protects the “best interests" of the Tribal child and Tribal sovereignty
  • Ensures Tribal stability and security


Tribal children in Oregon continue to be removed from their homes at rates higher than other non-Tribal children; and despite requirements under the Indian Child Welfare Act, application of the Indian Child Welfare Act in Oregon courts and Child Welfare is inconsistent. The Oregon Indian Child Welfare Act was written in response to applying the federal law within the Oregon Safety Model and Oregon’s Juvenile Court System. 

ORICWA ensures that judges, attorneys ​and Child Welfare workers apply ORICWA in a way that better aligns with how the federal law applies to systems within our state.

The ORICWA Report requirement was specifically requested by the legislative drafters and the Oregon Tribes. There are 13 elements that must be included within the report. Some of these elements relate to data and some relate to the efforts ODHS is undertaking to improve service to Tribal children. The report must be jointly drafted by ODHS and the Oregon Judicial Department (OJD) because the responsibility of the application of ORICWA does not fall solely on the shoulders of ODHS workers: it is a joint responsibility with the Juvenile Court system.

The ORICWA legislation also requires a new report be submitted every two years. This allows for ongoing monitoring and review of Tribal children within the Child Welfare and Juvenile Court systems. This report gives ODHS the opportunity to continue to build its partnership with OJD and ​the Tribes. This report is also an opportunity to show not just the transparency of our system, but also our collective responsibility to improve outcomes for Tribal children and families.

The reporting period for the current ORICWA report is 01/01/2021 – 07/15/2022. The reporting period for this initial report does not include an entire two year period, which ORICWA requires. This is because ORICWA did not go into effect until 2021. The end date of 07/15 was necessary to allow for review of data accuracy.

2022 ORICWA Report​​​

The Office of Tribal Affairs, in partnership with an Oregon Tribal Nation, hosts a yearly conference designed to bring tog​ether the Nine Federally Recognized Tribes of Oregon, Child Welfare and community partners. The annual conference has been occurring since 1995 and underscores the importance of Tribal sovereignty, enhances ​application of ICWA/O​RICWA and increases Tribal-state partnerships and relationships.

Conference information​

​An ICWA Warrior is a Child Welfare staff member, Tribal partner and/or community partner who is a staunch advocate of​ ICWA/ORICWA and exemplifies the spirit of ICWA through their diligent work and practice.

Nomination form

There are a total of 12 regional Indian Child Welfare Act specialists located across Oregon. They serve the Nine Federally Recognized Tribes of Oregon, in addition to other federally recognized Tribes across the nation, as it pertains to the prevention of American Indian and Alaska Native children coming to care or ​working toward permanency when these ​children are in the ODHS Child Welfare system. 

Regional ICWA ​specialists work alongside Tribes and ODHS staff at all levels to ensure the tenants of the Indian Child Welfare Act and the Oregon Indian Child Welfare Act are followed. They are supervised by the senior Indian Child Welfare Act manager.

Contact information​Download PDF​​

Protect ICWA - Committed to serving tribal children and families