Indian Child Welfare

201 South Muskogee Ave. Tahlequah, OK 74464

Indian Child Welfare Act

Frequently Asked Questions

Who has control of placement decisions?

Ultimately the judge has the final control of placement decisions, however, he is bound by his judicial oath to follow the laws that govern the placement of Indian children. At this time the federal Indian Child Welfare Act is that law that covers these issues and supersedes any state law to the contrary. However, states may adopt their own state Indian Child Welfare Acts if the state law strengthens or expands the federal law and does not take away or modify the original intent of the federal mandates. In such a case, the higher standard of protection applies.

Legal Reference: 25 U.S.C. #sect# 1921 Higher State or federal standard applicable to protect rights of parent or Indian custodial of Indian child.

What are the consequences of not following the federal Indian Child Welfare Act on placement decisions?

To the Cherokee Nation, the most critical consequence is a disrupted placement. If a state court does not follow federal law and allows an illegal placement to continue for an extended period of time the correction of such an error will cause placement change. Depending on the length of time involved before the correction is made, the disruption could have long-term effects on the child. Some courts have made such placement errors and depend on the length of time necessary for appeal to cement the placement and declare "bonding" as a reason for "good cause" not to move the child to an Indian placement. This is a flagrant attempt to circumvent the law at the child's expense. The law is clear on preference placements and the court's responsibility to follow them. The best defense that the tribe has in such issues is a legal appeal. Appeals are never the first option of Cherokee Nation but we are ready to do so when such placement violations are blatant and Cherokee Nation has offered to provide an alternative placement that meets the needs of the child.

Legal Reference: 25 U.S.C. #sect# 1914 Petition of court of competent jurisdiction to invalidate action upon showing of certain violations

Who has the legal responsibility to ensure that the tribe received legal notification?

The law states that the party seeking the foster care placement of, or termination of parental rights to, an Indian child shall notify the tribe. This could be the court, attorney, private agency or state agency who is seeking placement action in an Indian child custody proceeding.

Legal Reference: 25 U.S.C. #sect# 1912 Pending Court Actions, Section (a)

How do I give legal notice to the tribe as required under this federal law?

According to law, notice must be sent by registered mail with return receipt requested, of the pending proceeding and of the tribe's right to intervene. This method would guarantee compliance with federal law and would not create a situation for appeal due to lack of proper notice.

Cherokee Nation is interested in the timely notification so that we can be involved from the beginning of the case. This helps to ensure that all steps are done according to law. Cherokee Nation has accepted notice through fax communication and will continue to do so as long as this assists the court in the more timely notice. Our fax number is 918-458-6146. We would suggest you follow-up by sending notice according to established ICWA standards. Our choice to accept faxed information is strictly to assist courts in meeting time constraints and in no way indicates that the federal law should not be followed or that any other tribe would choose to do the same.

Legal Reference: 25 U.S.C. #sect# 1912 Pending Court Actions, Section (a)

What is required in the notice?

  1. Name and date of birth for the child;
  2. Name and date of birth for the natural parents including maiden name of mother;
  3. Names and dates of birth for any known direct ancestors such as grandparents and great-grandparents including maiden names of females;
  4. A copy of the petition, complaint or other document by which this proceeding was initiated;
  5. Names, addresses and telephone numbers of attorneys involved in the action;
  6. Name of the judge presiding over the matter and the address of the court where the matter is to be heard:
  7. Name, address and telephone number of any state or private social worker involved in the proceeding;
  8. Notice of dates and times and location of the scheduled legal proceeding;
  9. Statement of the biological parents or Indian custodians, and the Indian tribe to:
    1. intervene in the proceeding,
    2. to petition the court to transfer the proceeding to the tribal court of the Indian child, and
    3. to request an additional twenty (20) days from receipt of the notice to prepare for the proceeding.

Without this information, there will be delays in processing the children to determine eligibility for tribal membership and return notification to the party needing such information to proceed legally. Cherokee Nation receives approximately 700 such requests each month and we average about two to three weeks from the time of receiving your notice until you get a reply. Any missing information from you only delays that process. Please help us help you.

Legal Reference: 25 U.S.C. #sect# 1912 (a) Notice

What are the time frames for sending notice of the court proceedings to the tribe?

According to law, no foster care placement or termination of parental rights proceeding shall be held until at least 10 days after the tribe has received notice. The law also provides that the tribe shall, upon request, be granted up to twenty additional days to prepare for such proceeding. Therefore, early notification of the tribe should be a priority and is necessary under federal compliance before a hearing involving an Indian child can be legally held.

Legal Reference: 25 U.S.C. #sect# 1912 (a) Notice

How do I find the mailing address of the tribe that needs notification?

Several tribes now have websites that give that type of information. You can send all notice information for the Cherokee Nation to:

Cherokee Nation
Attention: ICW
P.O. Box 948
Tahlequah, OK 74465

If you are unable to locate a website for the particular tribe you need, the Bureau of Indian Affairs maintains a list of the current mailing addresses for all the tribes. You can contact the Bureau in your area to obtain this information. The regional BIA offices are located as follows:

  • Alaska Regional Office
    Bureau of Indian Affairs
    Niles C. Cesar, Regional Director
    P.O. Box 25520
    Juneau, AK 99802-5520
    Telephone: 800-645-8397
    Fax: 907-586-7252
  • Eastern Oklahoma Regional Office
    Bureau of Indian Affairs
    Jeanette Hanna, Regional Director
    P.O. Box 8002
    Muskogee, OK 74401
    Telephone: 918-781-4614
    Fax: 918-781-4604
  • Eastern Regional Office
    Bureau of Indian Affairs
    Franklin Keel, Regional Director
    711 Stewarts Ferry Pike
    Nashville, TN 37214
    Telephone: 615-467-1700
    Fax: 615-467-1701
  • Great Plains Regional Office
    Bureau of Indian Affairs
    Cora L. Jones, Regional Director
    115 4th Avenue, SE
    Aberdeen, SD 57401
    Telephone: 605-226-7343
    Fax: 605-226-7446
  • Midwest Regional Office
    Bureau of Indian Affairs
    Larry Morris, Regional Director
    One Federal Drive, Room 550
    Ft. Snelling, MN 55111-4007
    Telephone: 612-713-4400
    Fax: 612-713-4401
  • Navajo Regional Office
    Bureau of Indian Affairs
    Elouise Chicharello, Regional Director
    P.O. Box 1060
    Gallup, NM 87305
    Telephone: 505-863-8314
    Fax: 505-863-8324
  • Northwest Regional Office
    Bureau of Indian Affairs
    Stanley Speaks, Regional Director
    911 NE 11th Avenue
    Portland, OR 97232
    Telephone: 503-231-6702
    Fax: 503-231-2201
  • Pacific Regional Office
    Bureau of Indian Affairs
    Ronald Jaeger, Regional Director
    2800 Cottage Way
    Sacramento, CA 95825
    Telephone: 916-978-6000
    Fax: 916-978-6099
  • Rocky Mountain Regional Office
    Bureau of Indian Affairs
    Keith Beartusk, Regional Director
    316 N. 26th Street
    Billings, MT 59101
    Telephone: 406-247-7943
    Fax: 406-247-7976
  • Southern Plains Regional Office
    Bureau of Indian Affairs
    Dan Deerinwater, Regional Director
    P.O. Box 368 WCD Office Complex
    Anadarko, OK 73005
    Telephone: 405-247-6673
    Fax: 405-247-5611
  • Southwest Regional Office
    Bureau of Indian Affairs
    Rob Baracker, Regional Director
    P.O. Box 26567
    Albuquerque, NM 87125
    Telephone: 505-346-7590
    Fax: 505-346-7517
  • Western Regional Office
    Bureau of Indian Affairs
    Wayne Nordwall, Regional Director
    P.O. Box 10
    Phoenix, AZ 85001
    Telephone: 602-379-6600
    Fax: 602-379-4413

Legal Reference: 25 U.S.C. #sect# 1912 (a) Notice