Indian Child Welfare Act
Eastern Michigan University
The mistreatment of American Indians in the United States can date back all the way to the days our early settlers arrived to the United States of America in the 1600s. The alarming amount of American Indian children being removed from their homes and put in faculties or foster homes where their culture is looked down upon is a very well-known problem which the Indian Child Welfare Act was created to fix. Due to the excessive removal of American Indian Children they are not given the opportunity to learn the same cultural values as their ancestors. These children are being forced out of their homes and transformed into portraying “white societies” norms. The children aren’t allowed to speak their native language, their long hair which has meaning is cut, and the majority of their personal belonging which have cultural significance are taken. The removal of these children also attributes to the dwindling of the American Indian tribes and culture in the United States. Present day policies are set forth in order to prevent the breakup of American Indian families and/or to reunify them. The Indian Child Welfare Act recognizes that there is a government to government relationship between the United States and Tribes. The purpose of this policy is to regulate States regarding the handling of child abuse and neglect and adoption cases involving Native American children.
In the past legislation took a paternalistic position regarding American Indian tribes and communities. Legislation viewed and treated the American Indian tribes as if they were children. The Indian Child Welfare Act became a federal law after fifteen years of political struggle by American Indian leaders throughout the nation. By passing the law Congress hoped to prevent the abusing of powers by state agencies. The Indian Child Welfare Act was enacted in response to the destruction of Indian families and culture by removal of children and placing them in dominant society foster, group homes and institutions (Haralambie, 2009). These placements often occurred without any understanding of the cultural norms and practices of the tribes. It was also indicated that Indian parents often lacked adequate legal representation in child custody proceedings and were constantly coerced into wavering their parental rights voluntarily. As a result of these problems the policy was created to give stability and security for Indian tribes and families while also ensuring that the adoptive and foster homes of Indian children reflected the values of Indian culture.
According to Matheson (1996), Before the Indian Child Welfare Act was put in place, between 1969 and 1974 at least thirty-five percent of Indian children were placed in alternative care and eighty-five percent of the Indian children were placed with non-Indian families within sixteen states. In addition to the problem of Indian children being raised in non-Indian homes, there is also a problem of social interaction which creates a risk of psychological difficulties. Matheson stated, “The suicide rate among Indian youths, twice the national average, can be directly related to having been raised outside of their own cultural systems” (1996).
In the past there were no active efforts to keep Indian children in their homes or even within their culture. However overtime and the creation of the Indian Child Welfare Act it is mandated that the state make active efforts. According to the National Indian Child Welfare Association (2012), there are two specific areas in every case, one being to provide services to the family to prevent removal of an Indian child from their parent of Indian custodian. The second area is to reunify an Indian child with his or her parent or Indian custodian after removal. Overall there has been significant change overtime