I felt compelled to write today after reading a recent commentary by the Louisiana solicitor general criticizing the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). It is absurd and illogical to compare the placement of an Indian child with a tribal family to sending a child off to live in a foreign country. This is not the type of comparison we would expect from someone who specialized in legally representing the interests of Native American children. We are also shocked that it’s necessary to correct the record and remind folks that ICWA is federal law; as such, state courts must follow and adhere to it. It's troubling to see a state solicitor general who has taken an oath of office brazenly mischaracterize, undermine and politically attack a law she is sworn to uphold.
ICWA ensures that Indian children can remain with their families. When a Native child is placed in the foster care system, their tribe must be notified and great care is taken to determine if they can be placed with relatives or their extended families. In the event that there is not a suitable family placement, the court attempts to place the child with a family who will keep them connected to their heritage. This is a simple case of court procedures, and it is shocking that one of the state’s top attorneys would become so confused by this process that they would link this to a placement overseas.
Let’s be clear: by enforcing ICWA, governments follow the law. ICWA was designed to avoid serious and lasting harm to children and tribal communities. It is a law rooted in the idea of keeping families together, and keeping children connected to their roots, allowing them to grow and flourish with an intimate knowledge and pride in who they are.
president, Quinault Nation