Guidelines for Implementing the Indian Child Welfare Act – December 2016 – These guidelines are intended to assist those involved in child custody proceedings in understanding and uniformly applying the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and U.S. Department of the Interior (Department) regulations (also referred to as a “rule”). All such parties – including the courts, state child welfare agencies, private adoption agencies, Tribes, and family members – have a stake in ensuring the proper implementation of this important Federal law designed to protect Indian children, their parents, and Indian Tribes.
ICWA is a statute passed by Congress and codified in the United States Code (U.S.C.). The Department promulgated ICWA regulations to implement the statute; the regulations were published in the Federal Register and will be codified in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).
The regulations apply to any child custody proceeding initiated on or after December 12, 2016, even if the child has already undergone child custody proceedings prior to that date to which the regulation did not apply. The statute defines a “child-custody proceeding” as a foster-care placement, a termination of parental rights (TPR), a preadoptive placement, or an adoptive placement; so, if any one of these types of proceedings is initiated on or after December 12, 2016, the rule applies to that proceeding. 1 While not imposing binding requirements, these guidelines provide a reference and resource for all parties involved in child custody proceedings involving Indian children.
These guidelines explain the statute and regulations and also provide examples of best practices for the implementation of the statute, with the goal of encouraging greater uniformity in the application of ICWA. These guidelines replace the 1979 and 2015 versions of the Department’s guidelines.