The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) was passed by Congress to address the misuse of the states’ child protection power. Before the passage of the ICWA, it is estimated that 25-35% of all Indian children (a category which includes both American Indians and Alaska Natives) had been placed outside of their homes at some point in time. Many placements occurred despite little evidence of actual abuse and neglect, and 90% of those placements were with non-Indian families. By regulating the process by which state systems deal with Indian children and families at risk and with the adoption of Indian children, ICWA’s intent was to protect Indian children and give them the opportunity to stay with parents whenever possible and to remain connected with their families, communities, and cultures. The ICWA applies to Indian children in child custody proceedings in state courts. It adds federal standards to state child welfare law but does not replace state law except where state law is inconsistent with the ICWA.
In this course, Jack Trope, co-author of the ABA Handbook on the Indian Child Welfare Act, will provide the history and philosophical framework which serve as the basis for the ICWA and its requirements, discuss key provisions in both the law and implementing regulations, work through some hypothetical scenarios, and inform participants about some pending legal challenges to the law.
Jack F. Trope is a Senior Director in Indian Child Welfare Programs at Casey Family Programs where he works on national and local initiatives aimed at promoting compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act, increasing tribal access to the Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance Program and improving child welfare outcomes for children and families in state and tribal systems through training and systems improvement. Previously, Jack served as the Executive Director of the Association on American Indian Affairs (AAIA) for more than 13 years (and as Staff Attorney earlier in his career) where he worked on a variety of legal and policy matters, with a heavy emphasis on issues related to youth and the protection and preservation of Native American Indian tribal cultures, particularly the protection of sacred places and the repatriation of human remains and cultural items to Indian tribes. He has also served as Director of the Albuquerque-based Western Area Office for the Save the Children Federation, was a partner with the law firm of Sant’Angelo & Trope, an Assistant Counsel to two New Jersey governors, and clerked for a New Jersey Supreme Court Justice. He is a graduate of Rutgers College and Harvard Law School. Mr. Trope has worked on Indian child welfare matters since 1985 including litigation, amicus briefs in a number of cases including the two ICWA cases decided by the United States Supreme Court, training for tribal, state and local judges, attorneys, social workers, and government leaders, and advocacy involving both the legislative and executive branches of government. He is the co-author of the ABA Indian Child Welfare Act Handbook (3rd Ed.), has authored articles on the ICWA for the Federal Lawyer magazine and the American Indian Law Journal, was a contributing author for A Practical Guide to the Indian Child Welfare Act published by the Native American Rights Fund, and has written a number of papers and pamphlets on Title IV-E of the Social Security Act as it pertains to Indian tribes.