UA Researchers Release New Findings in Tribal Child Welfare Study

The Native Nations Institute at the University of Arizona and the National Indian Child Welfare Association have released a report detailing the second part of a study on tribal welfare codes designed to protect children and youth.

The graphical summary, “Protecting Our Children Through Tribal Law: A Review of 100+ Tribal Child Welfare Codes (Part II),” is the second set of qualitative and quantitative analyses from an ongoing project on tribal child welfare policy.

In the areas of child welfare jurisdiction, child abuse reporting, paternity and tribal-state child welfare relations, Part II of the investigation answers the question: “How are tribes asserting their sovereignty to protect their children?”

Based on the study’s findings, the team affirms that:

  • To help protect children from abuse and neglect, 70 percent of the tribal codes make specific requirements for reporting suspected child abuse and neglect.
  • To ensure paternal rights and responsibilities, 60 percent of tribal codes create processes for establishing or acknowledging paternity.
  • Whereas the Indian Child Welfare Act acknowledges that tribes may take jurisdiction over their children, 61 percent of tribal codes assert explicit jurisdiction over tribal citizen children on and off the reservation.

The authors are: Adrian “Addie” T. Smith, a government affairs staff attorney at the National Indian Child Welfare Association; Mary Beth Jäger  (Citizen Potawatomi), a research analyst at the Native Nations Institute; and Rachel Rose Starks (Zuni/Navajo), a senior researcher at the Native Nations Institute. 

The team reviewed 107 publicly available, U.S.-based tribal child welfare codes representing tribes with populations ranging from 50 to 18,000 citizens.

The researchers sought out the most up-to-date tribal child welfare codes available for each tribe, reporting that approximately 45 percent of the 107 codes were amended after 2000.

The research team analyzed more than 100 variables on the topics of culture, jurisdiction, tribal-state relationships, child abuse reporting, paternity, foster care, termination of parental rights and adoption. A more detailed report on this study will be released later this fall.

Findings from both phases of the study are available online, and launch as PDFs:

Part I: http://nni.arizona.edu/pdfs/nicwaposter-WEB.pdf

Part II: http://nni.arizona.edu/pdfs/CW%202%20final.pdf

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