Wisconsin Department of Children and Families

Protecting Children, Strengthening Families, Building Communities

 

 

Wisconsin Indian Child Welfare Act (WICWA)

The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is a federal law enacted by Congress in 1978 with the intent to “protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families” (25 U.S.C. § 1902). With the intent to clarify the law and improve compliance in Wisconsin,  ICWA was signed into state law on December 7, 2009. This state law is known as the Wisconsin Indian Child Welfare act or WICWA.

Why do we have the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and the Wisconsin Indian Child Welfare Act (WICWA)?

  • ICWA and WICWA are based on the political status of tribal governments. As sovereign nations, they have a unique government to government relationship with the United States. (Top 10 ICWA Myths)
  • ICWA was passed to address the alarmingly high rate of separation of Indian families with the intent to "protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families" (25 U.S.C. § 1902).
  • The Association on American Indian Affairs completed two studies and released finding in 1969 and 1974 that included the following
    • 25-35% of all Indian children were separated from their families by state social service departments and placed in foster homes, adoptive homes or institutions.
    • 85% of all Indian children in foster homes were in non-Indian homes.
    • In Wisconsin, Indian children were approximately 1600 times more likely to be removed from their home than non-Indian children.
  • The separation of Indian children from their families had a significant impact on their wellbeing such as
    • Cross-racial adoptions have a high likelihood creating a severe identity crisis in Indian children as they become adolescents (Matheson, 1996 - NRCFCPP)
    • Indian youth have the highest rate of suicide of any population in the nation (NICWA fact sheet)
    • Suicide rate can be directly linked to children having been raised outside of their own cultural system (Matheson, 1996 – NRCFCPP)

Wisconsin Indian Child Welfare Act (WICWA) Requirements

  • ICWA and WICWA outlines many requirement such as:
    • Notification to tribes and parents of Indian Child Custody Proceedings
    • Legal representation for parents and Indian custodians
    • Active efforts to prevent an out-of-home placement and to reunify the Indian family.
    • Any out-of-home placement of an Indian child follows the placement preferences, as outlined by ICWA and WICWA
    • Qualified Expert Witness testimony is required for out-of-home placement and involuntary Termination of Parental Rights* (TPR)
    • Voluntary proceedings must be signed and executed in front of a judge. They are not valid prior to or within 10 days after birth.

Forms

DCF has published several forms for child protection workers to utilize when working with an Indian child:

Request for Confirmation of Child’s Indian Status (PDF)

  • This form should be sent to the Indian child’s tribe when the child’s Indian status is unknown.
  • Be sure to have correct spelling and birthdates.
  • Include the following documents to assist the tribe in making an accurate determination.

Notice of Involuntary Child Custody Proceeding of an Indian Child (PDF)

Voluntary Placement Agreement for an Indian Child (Word)

  • Voluntary proceedings must be signed and executed in front of a judge.
  • They are not valid prior to or within 10 days after birth.

Publications

DCF provides several publications for child protection to reference when working with an Indian child:

A Child Welfare Practitioner’s Guide for Meeting the WICWA Active Efforts Requirement.

WICWA Desk Aid explains the fundamentals of Implementation.

WICWA eWiSACWIS Desk Aid explains how to document WICWA casework.

Resources

Wisconsin Children’s Court Improvement Program’s E-Learning Activity - Webinar

Wisconsin Children’s Court Improvement Program’s WICWA Judicial Checklist is a form for judges who are hearing Indian Child Custody Proceedings.

Here is a list of WICWA Circuit Court Forms.

Federal Registry ICWA Designated Tribal Agents for Notice is a list of ICWA contacts for each federally recognized tribe in the U.S.

Federally Reconized Tribes in Wisconsin Indian Child Welfare is a list of ICW contact agents in the state.

National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) website

NICWA FAQ - The National Indian Child Welfare Association webpage containing frequently asked questions about the Indian Child Welfare Act.

Contact Information

DSP Tribal Affairs Specialist
(920)785-7839
DCFWICWA@wisconsin.gov

DCF Tribal Liaison
(608)422-7076
DCFWICWA@wisconsin.gov