August 25, 2022


YLC Urges United States Supreme Court to Uphold Indian Child Welfare Act

Last week, the Youth Law Center joined 30 other groups in submitting an amicus brief to the United States Supreme Court in a case, Haaland v. Brackeen, urging the justices to uphold the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) originally passed by Congress in 1978.

The brief was filed by the National Association of Counsel for Children (NACC) and Public Counsel with core support from Children’s Rights, Inc., Juvenile Law CenterNational Center of Youth Law, and the Youth Law Center and co-signed by more than twenty additional children’s legal advocacy organizations.

The amicus brief describes in detail the history of ICWA and how its implementation serves the best interest of children and families by providing processes that help ensure Indian children are able to remain at home with their families whenever possible and that they maintain connections to their communities and cultural practices.

“The Indian Child Welfare Act has a 44-year history and is the foundation for protecting the rights of Native American children by recognizing tribal jurisdiction over decisions about their futures,” stated Jennifer Rodriguez, Executive Director of the Youth Law Center.

“ICWA was passed in response to a shameful history in our country of ripping Native children from their families and communities and stripping them of their languages, traditions, and cultures,” she added.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in August 2019 in support of ICWA when it affirmed its constitutionality under a case brought by the state of Texas and other individuals attacking the law as unconstitutional. Oral arguments at the Supreme Court will be heard in November 2022.

“Tribes must retain legal control over child welfare policies in order to do what’s in the best interest of each Indian child. We know from evidence-based best practices, such as those codified in federal law and ICWA, that children do best growing up in families, with the safety and stability of connection to their tribes and cultural traditions,” Rodriguez declared.

“We urge the Supreme Court justices to both consider the case on the merits, as outlined in our amicus brief, but also to ask the question of themselves: what would you want for the children you love if their parents faced challenges? No doubt the answer would be a safe, secure, stable and loving family, with their parents receiving the support necessary to care for them whenever possible, connected to relatives and extended family in a closely knit community, and their identity, culture, and traditions honored and preserved. This is what ICWA provides for Tribes and should continue to provide for future generations,” she emphasized.