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New ICWA Regulations Issued

June 14, 2016

On June 8, 2016, the U.S. Department of the Interior issued new final regulations governing state court and agency child custody proceeds involving Indian children. The new regulations were formulated to ensure uniform compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA). Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel stated, “ICWA was designed to safeguard Native children from undue separation from their families and cultural identity. This rule will achieve consistent implementation of a law that remains critical to protecting the best interest of Native children and promoting successful Native communities.” Key provisions of the regulations include:

  • extensive definitions of critical terms
  • more detailed guidance on the required “active efforts” to maintain or reunite an Indian child with his/her family before removal can occur
  • clarified notice and time limit provisions
  • the requirement that each participant to a state child welfare, foster care, or adoption proceeding must indicate if the subject child is an Indian child
  • standards for emergency proceedings involving an Indian child

The new regulations become effective December 5, 2016. In the meantime, the Department of the Interior anticipates issuing new Guidelines to assist in implementing the new regulations.

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