Partners for Our Children

Happy November! Here’s the monthly federal update from POC.

So much is happening, and we want to share a few highlights with all of you. Please contact us if you have any comments about the update or suggestions about specific content you want us to cover. 


Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) challenged in court

On October 4th, a federal judge declared the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) unconstitutional, holding that ICWA’s provisions intended to protect Native American/ Alaska Native children from being removed from their families and communities constituted racial discrimination against non-Native adoptive parents. 

ICWA was passed in 1978 to guard against  separation of American Indian / Alaska Native children from their families and tribes by public and private child welfare service agencies. ICWA includes several provisions intended to promote placement with family and tribes, maintain AI/AN children’s cultural connections, and ensure tribal sovereignty over AI/AN child welfare proceedings and has been called a gold-standard in child welfare practice. 

In the Brackeen v. Zinke decision, U.S. District Judge O’Connor ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, the Brackeens, a non-Native couple seeking to adopt a Native child and the states of Texas, Indiana, and Louisiana, holding that ICWA was a race-based statute and that in passing ICWA, Congress had overstepped its authority.  

Four tribes intervened to join the defendant, the U.S. Department of the Interior in defending the constitutionality of ICWA. Following the ruling, the intervening tribes: the Cherokee Nation, Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Oneida Nation, and Quinault Indian Nation requested a temporary suspension of the decision pending appeal, but the stay was denied. Amicus briefs in support of ICWA were filed by several states, including Washington State. This case represents the first time that ICWA has been ruled unconstitutional by a Federal court.

Partners for Our Children stands with Indian Country in support of ICWA. Decades of research and evidence shows the continued need for the federal Indian Child Welfare Act and the need to maintain tribal jurisdiction over American Indian/Alaska Native (or AI/AN) child custody proceedings. In 1978, ICWA was passed after evidence showed that AI/AN children were separated from their homes and their culture at a high rate: one in three AI/AN children were removed from their parents and separated from their communities, as reported by the National Indian Child Welfare Association.

Even today, research reported by the Casey Family Programs shows that AI/AN children are removed from their families and placed in foster care at a rate four times that of White children from families with the same presenting problems. There continue to be documented disparities at all decision points in child welfare proceedings and it is in the best interest of AI/AN children to maintain ICWA and Tribal jurisdiction over Indian Child Welfare proceedings.  

For more information about the case:


Substance Use Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act  passes both houses of Congress, awaits the president’s signature

The federal Substance Use Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act or the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act passed with bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate in September 2018, and was signed into law by the president on 10/24/18. The opioid legislation is intended to reduce use and supply, encourage recovery, support caregivers and families, and drive innovation and long-term solutions. 

Furthermore, the SUPPORT Act aims to stop the entry of illegal drugs, provide for better drug monitoring communication between states, establish comprehensive opioid recovery centers, and expand access to substance use disorder health professionals and medication-assisted treatment. The SUPPORT Act also plans of care and support for families in schools and educational programs, progress research, and development of strategies and technologies. Medicaid and Medicare programs through The expansion of services and federal has implications for Medicaid and Medicare funding. 

Here’s one article with good summary of some of the issues.  Also, you can find the entire legislation here.


Federal legislation tracking on the POC website

If you want updates on specific federal legislation related to child welfare, please be sure to go to our federal legislation tracker (click on the “federal bills” tab). The tracker, housed on the POC website, specifically focuses on federal bills that potentially impact child and family well-being, especially related to people most negatively affected by inequities.

If you notice an error or discrepancy, however, please contact us. Also, please let us know about additional relevant federal bills for us to track.

For a more comprehensive tracking of Congressional activity, we recommend

Don’t forget to vote!!!!

The header says it all.