Federal law gives preferences to Native American families in adoption and foster care proceedings under the U.S. Indian Child Welfare Act which became law in 1978. North Dakota has now incorporated provisions of this federal law into North Dakota state law.
What impact may this have on adoptions in the state?
Reason for the new law
Even though Indigenous children represent only 9% of the children in North Dakota, they account for 44% of the state’s children in foster care. Advocates for the bill believe that ensuring that Indigenous families raise Indigenous children is important for maintaining their ties to their culture.
The Supreme Court will be ruling on a lawsuit brought by the state of Texas and multiple non-Native adoptive parents that could threaten federal protections. As a result, advocates in North Dakota felt the need to codify these protections into state law.
ICWA impact on adoption
The ICWA establishes requirements and guidelines for how the child welfare system and adoption agencies serve tribal children and birth parents. The act establishes criteria for adoptive and foster homes, gives tribes a legal voice in the process, and prioritizes keeping indigenous children with family members or other members of their tribe.
The act requires states to provide services that prevent unnecessarily removing indigenous children from their homes. The state must also give tribes the opportunity to participate in the decision-making process.
Parents of indigenous children may petition to transfer child welfare cases to tribal courts. If you are considering adopting an indigenous child or are an indigenous birth parent considering adoption options, it is important to understand your rights.