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News Release

California Tribal Families Coalition

The California Tribal Families Coalition (CTFC) announced today that it is assembling the best and most innovative minds in tribal social services and Indian Child Welfare practice to create a new think tank to advance and defend protections for Indian children, families and tribal sovereignty.

The California ICWA Institute, a new collaborative project of California Tribal Families Coalition, will provide a strong and unified voice on behalf of tribal youth by crafting legal, policy and political strategies to protect Indian children and families, tribal child welfare systems and tribal sovereignty.

California Tribal Families Coalition’s launch of the Institute comes just days after tribes and tribal leaders from across the nation gathered in Washington D.C. in support of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) during oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in Brackeen v Haaland, a constitutional assault on ICWA and tribal sovereignty.

“The Brackeen case is not the first attack on the Indian Child Welfare Act, and it will not be the last. Now more than ever, the Institute is critically needed to counter the well-resourced and coordinated interests who continue to strike against the Indian Child Welfare Act and tribal sovereignty,” said California Tribal Families Coalition Board Chairperson Maryann McGovran, a tribal council member of the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians in California.

“By bringing together thought leaders and experts in tribal social services and Indian Child Welfare, the Institute will develop proactive strategies to counteract these ongoing threats to Native culture and the well-being of Indian children and families,” McGovran said.

The Morongo Band of Mission Indians, a founding California Tribal Families Coalition member and an intervening tribe defending the Indian Child Welfare Act in the Brackeen case, described the establishment of the Institute as a critical step forward for tribes in the protection of Indian children.

“The Institute will proactively address issues such as those raised by the Brackeen case as it works to strengthen tribal rights and participation in Indian child welfare matters in the face of the ongoing attacks on ICWA,” said Morongo Tribal Chairman Charles Martin.

The Institute’s activities will include:

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  • Creation of white papers in policy and law on the legal standing and interest of tribes in child welfare proceedings.
  • Development of model California state statutes that preserve tribal rights to participate in state child welfare proceedings and the right of tribes to protect their members in tribal child welfare proceedings.
  • Drafting of model legal briefs to support impactful litigation efforts to protect tribal roles in child welfare related cases and policy implementation.
  • Identifying strategies to increase tribal child welfare funding and funding for Indian children in state systems, including securing federal and state resources for tribal social welfare infrastructures.

The groundwork for the Institute began months ago as California Tribal Families Coalition met with tribal leaders and stakeholders. CTFC will host a series of events to gather stories and concepts starting with a California tribal listening session in late November where participants will review and discuss existing threats to tribal sovereignty and attacks on ICWA — the most notable Brackeen v Haaland. The meeting will include establishing subcommittees for specific deliverables.

Because 109 of the nation’s 577 tribes are in California, and California has the highest annual number of Indian Child Welfare cases and appeals in the country, CTFC is leading the effort to establish the Institute as national changes on Indian Child Welfare policies have a disproportionate impact in California.

Recognizing the needs to build a vast and strong coalition, California Tribal Families Coalition is also partnering with national tribal child welfare experts and agencies as well as leaders from other states and systems to continually refine the Institute’s work.

California Tribal Families Coalition’s formation of the Institute aligns with its mission to promote and protect the health, safety and welfare of tribal children and families. Established by tribal leaders from across California as a force for change, CTFC and its member tribes have successfully passed state legislation that helps protect Native children and strengthen tribal sovereignty and is a national advocate on behalf of Native children and families on legislation, administrative policies and impact litigation.

About the California Tribal Families Coalition

Comprised of tribes and tribal leaders from across the state, the California Tribal Families Coalition’s mission is to promote and protect the health, safety and welfare of tribal children and families, which are inherent tribal governmental functions and are at the core of tribal sovereignty and tribal governance. 

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