Office of U.S. Representative Chu, D-CA-27
This week, Representative Judy Chu (CA-27) and Representative Don Bacon (NE-02) introduced the bipartisan Strengthening Tribal Families Act, legislation designed to assist state and local child welfare agencies with implementing the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). ICWA, which sets federal standards for abuse or neglect custody proceedings involving native children, lessens the trauma of removal by promoting placement with family and community.
“The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) has been labeled the “gold standard” in child welfare policy and practice from experts across the field because it requires active efforts to keep children safely in their homes and connected to their families, communities, and culture.” said Rep. Chu. “Unfortunately, there is no federal agency responsible for overseeing the implementation of ICWA standards and progress has stagnated. Our bipartisan Strengthening Tribal Families Act will give the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) the authority to help states improve on their efforts to comply with the Indian Child Welfare Act in a way that is both in the best interests of the child and the best interests of tribal communities.”
“The Indian Child Welfare Act is an answer to kinship placements for our Native American children, as they are disproportionately represented in the foster care system,” said Representative Don Bacon. “Research shows us kinship placement helps children develop a stronger attachment to their extended family and culture. The long-term benefits in education, employment, housing, and mental health have to be at the forefront of our decision-making and this Act will ensure that.”
"Despite a generation of significant progress, native youth are still tragically overrepresented in the foster care system. It is time for us to close this gap once and for all," said Chairman Charles Martin of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians. "Congresswoman Chu has been an exceptional partner for tribal governments, and her legislation will ensure that our children grow up connected to their culture and community," Chairman Martin added. "I am so grateful to her, Congressman Don Bacon, Congressman Tom Cole and our Congressman Raul Ruiz for their support of tribal families."
The Strengthening Tribal Families Act would enhance states’ ability to conduct outreach to extended family and/or tribal communities. The bill would tie these outreach efforts to a dedicated child welfare funding stream, Title IV-B of the Social Security Act, and gives the Department of Health and Human Services the authority to help states improve in their Indian Child Welfare Act compliance efforts. Title IV-B provides funding for child welfare services including the prevention of maltreatment, family preservation, family reunification, and training for child welfare professionals. This legislation would also require a biennial Congressional report to aid the Children’s Bureau within HHS in obtaining the data needed to further bolster protections put in place by the Indian Child Welfare Act.
Representative Chu (D-CA-27) and Representative Bacon (R-NE-02) are joined in introducing the bill by original cosponsors Representative Cole (R-OK-04), Representative Ruiz (D-CA-36) and Representative Davids (D-KS-03)
The bill is endorsed by the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA), and First Focus Campaign for Children