GM 15-022

Bureau of Indian Affairs Issues Indian Child Welfare Act Guidelines

On February 25, 2015, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) published a set of guidelines for state courts and child welfare agencies concerning the implementation of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). News of the final guidelines was announced the preceding day by Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Washburn at a National Congress of American Indians Executive Council Winter Session. The 2015 guidelines supersede those issued in 1979 when ICWA was newly enacted. The BIA states: “Although there have been significant developments in ICWA jurisprudence, the guidelines have not been updated since they were originally published in 1979. Much has changed in the 35 years since the original guidelines were published, but many of the problems that led to the enactment of ICWA persist.” The new guidelines may be found here:

The BIA notes that the new guidance reflects input from Indian and judicial organizations, listening sessions in Indian Country, and the recommendations of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee on American Indian/Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence.

Among the new provisions in the guidance are its extension beyond state courts to child welfare agencies; detailed guidance on what may constitute “active efforts” in implementing ICWA; limitations on what constitutes “good cause” for not following transfer of jurisdiction and placement preferences; limitations on emergency removals and emergency placements of Indian children; and expansion of efforts to assist adult Indian adoptees in establishing tribal membership.

We attach a notice from the National Indian Child Welfare Association which is hosting a webinar Friday, March 13, at 10 a.m. Pacific time. The notice provides instructions for joining the webinar. Tribal and state child welfare personnel, tribal and state attorneys and judges and others are encouraged to join the webinar.

Please let us know if we may provide additional information or assistance regarding the guidelines for implementation of the Indian Child Welfare Act.