Preferences Created by the Indian Child Welfare Act

Preferences Generally

The purpose of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is to preserve and strengthen Native American families and culture. The ICWA attempts to accomplish that purpose by creating a legal preference for the placement of Native American children in Native American homes.

Preferences for Foster Care and Pre-adoption Placement

In a state court proceeding involving foster care or pre-adoption placement of a Native American child, the child must be placed with:

(1) A member of the child’s extended family; or

(2) A foster home approved by the child’s tribe; or

(3) A licensed Native American foster home; or

(4) An institution for children approved by the child’s tribe.

The ICWA requires a court to follow the list in order of preference unless the court shows good cause for a different manner of placement.

Preferences for Adoption

In an adoption proceeding involving a Native American child, the child must be placed with:

(1) A member of the child’s extended family; or

(2) Other members of the child’s tribe; or

(3) Other Native American families.

A court must show good cause in order to deviate from the list.

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